Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Brutality within Russian Army in Ukraine Now ‘Worse than in Hell,’ Veterans Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – Although the Russian authorities work overtime to hide it, brutality by officers and soldiers in the Russian invasion force in Ukraine is now so bad that some veterans say things are “worse than in hell,” the product they believe of the entrance of so many former criminals into the ranks and their propensity to follow the mores of Russian streets.

            That is the conclusion Olesya Gerasimenko of Verstka media draws on the basis of conversations with veterans, their relatives and their defenders after the last three months of the fighting, and the picture she paints is truly disturbing and a sign that unit cohesion is weakening (verstka.media/vnesudebnie_raspravi_kotorie_skrivayut_v_rossiiskoy_armii_issledovanie).

            The closer Russian forces are to the front lines and the rarer leave has become, the more officers and even some soldiers feel they can get away with anything, she says, confident that no military prosecutor will appear and that they therefore have the power to act as they like up to and including torture, rape and murder.

            According to the investigative journalist, “the problem of extrajudicial punishments, bullying and ‘non-regulation relations’ has intensified;” and the longer the forces are on the front lines, the more serious things are becoming. Those with a criminal past are leading the way in applying the rules of the streets, but regular officers aren’t far behind, soldiers say.

            Both groups view those who are weaker than they as somehow less than human and therefore appropriate targets for their anger. Some Russian soldiers are shooting themselves to escape, and others, Gerasimenko says, are surrendering on occasions when there was no need for that only to escape the hell of service in the Russian military.

After Two Years of War, Russians May Look the Same Externally but They’ve Changed Internally in Fundamental Ways, Rubtsova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – Two years after Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine, that war has been transformed from an event into “a fact of life,” Anastasiya Rubtsova says. But while Russians may look the same to each other and outsiders, they have changed mentally in fundamental and even disturbing ways.

            Over the last two years, the Moscow psychologist says, Russians have adapted to the world by viewing it as a fact of life much like the weather, something they can do little or nothing about. But at the same time, the war has changed the mindset of Russians and thus the way they respond to many things (takiedela.ru/2024/02/toshnit-i-ukachivaet/).

            Russians now see their first task as to survive, something that makes them more angry, Rubtsova says, and more distrustful. In almost any circumstance, they know ask who is a threat and who is an ally, an approach to the world that Kremlin propagandists do everything to strengthen.

            Such attitudes exclude empathy, an emotion that is “a luxury” when one is simply trying to survive, the psychologist observes. And it also excludes close examination of the relationship of causes and effects, a major reason why no one now, unlike a year earlier, is bothering to ask who is guilty for starting the war.

            Those are major changes, and they are hidden behind the fact that “the external contours of life in Russia have remained practically the same that they were. But it is very much the case that imports are far from the only thing being replaced. Also being replaced are “internal values,” with people shifting from “there must not be a war” to indifference about one going on.

            In addition, Rubtsova continues, Russians have redefined who is close to them and who is not and calculate their relations with those around them in terms of what harm or good those people can do to or for them. That arises from “fear which is apparently the new national idea of Russia.”

            According to the psychologist, “the level of distrust and horror regarding the police and any force structures has risen to a level that had appeared possible only in the last century. It is thus somewhat comic that these people are called as they were before, ‘the organs of security,” They are now anything but that.

            A year ago, Russians could talk about the world around them, but such discussions are a luxury when people are trying to survive, and so such conversations have largely stopped, a pattern that leads many to conclude that there is more agreement in society than there is any reason to think.

             Because of the war, Russians are angry and worried, “the eternal satellites of stress,” Rubtsova continues. And “the metamorphoses taking place” in the minds of Russian are occurring “very rapidly. Even just watching them makes one ever more sick,” the psychologist says.

            “Before our eyes, there was a great leap upward and now there is a free fall down into a political reality in which greedy and cruel narcissistic old men have power.” A year ago, Russians could tell jokes about that, but now they have largely stopped, another reflection of how much the war has changed Russians even if it seems that they have remained the same.

For Russians, the First Year of Putin’s Expanded War was Bad, but the Second was Far Worse, ‘Horizontal Russia’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – The first year of Putin’s expanded war in Ukraine was “a time of constantly increasing hardships” for the Russian people, the Horizontal Russia (7x7) portal says; but over the course of the second year, the situation became even worse for residents of all the regions and republics of the country.

            The second was not only worse but very different from the first, the portal continues. In the first, “companies and brands left, familiar services disappeared, prices rose, new restrictive laws were put in place, and relatives of soldiers and residents of border regions lost friends and relatives” (semnasem.org/articles/2024/02/24/zhit-stalo-huzhe).

            In the second 12 months of the conflict, it continues, “the state concentrated on convincing people of the need for ‘sacrifices’ to achieve ‘victory.’” And to that end, “agents of the system helped create an atmosphere of fear, with denunciations, administrative prosecution, and criminal charges for anything from earrings to laying flowers in memory of Navalny.”

            The Horizontal Russia portal points to 10 ways in which the lives of Russians have become worse over the course of the last two years and provides details about each in the course of a 4500-word article:

1.     The greatest loss has been that there is no longer a sense of security among residents of Russia.

2.     Even surviving has become more complicated and making plans still more difficult.

3.     Prices for even the most basic consumer goods have risen.

4.     Repressions have increased to “an unprecedented level,” now that Russian citizens can be punished for almost anything.

5.     NGOs have been marginalized or closed altogether and Russians have lost their last defenders in almost all spheres of life.

6.     Censorship has destroyed the media and cultural phenomena inside the country. There is no real discussion and often no reporting of any kind on important events.

7.     Getting a decent education is ever more difficult.

8.     The regime’s promotion of its traditional values are hitting more and more groups of the population.

9.     Regions have less and less money but are expected to perform more and more functions as Moscow diverts money from domestic needs to its foreign war.

10.  Russians generally are losing friends and relatives as combat losses mount, and those living near the border with Ukraine are themselves at increasing risk of suffering losses as well.

Ethnic Armenians who Fled Karabakh Reject Yerevan Plan to Resettle Them in Border Areas

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled Karabakh after the arrival of the Azerbaijani army there. Many flooded into Yerevan, and now the Armenian government has offered special support for the acquisition of housing if they will move to Armenia’s border regions adjoining Azerbaijan.

            But a large share of these Armenians are rejecting that offer, not only out of concern for their security in the border regions but also because there is little work available in these depressed areas, according to interviews conducted by the Kavkaz-Uzel news agency (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/397507).

            That suggests that most of those who fled Karabakh will remain in the Armenian capital where they are likely to exacerbate social tensions there and may even be recruited for public demonstrations against the incumbent government and its policy of seeking a peace agreement with Azerbaijan by those working for the downfall of Nikol Pashinyan.

Abyss Opens between What Russians Want and What They Expect as Long as Putin is in Power, ‘Khronika’ Poll Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – A recent poll of Russians conducted by the independent Khronika sociological center highlights what its organizers say is “a large divide between the future people want and the future which they expect under Putin in the future,” a reflection of both popular pessimism about the Kremlin leader and also a breeding ground for opposition to him.

            Khronika sociologists surveyed 1602 Russians at the end of January (chronicles.report/ and ehorussia.com/new/node/30539 and found the following divisions among them:

·       85 percent said they did not view any future mobilization in the future as desirable, but 39 percent said they were certain Putin would continue to conduct one.

·       82 percent said they would like to see the conclusion of the war in Ukraine “after Russia achieves its goals,” but 44 percent think that “Putin will not end military actions.”

·       58 percent would like the authorities to focus on the resolution of domestic problems, but 56 percent think Putin won’t do so.

·       56 percent would like to see the lifting of sanctions but 81 percent believe that as long as Putin is president, that won’t happen.

·       And 52 percent say they would like to see a restoration of good relations with Western countries, but only 28 percent think that will be possible with Putin.

Division between Russians in Russia and Russians who’ve Left Deepening, Tenisheva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – Among the many divisions which have opened among Russians since Putin launched his expanded war in Ukraine two years ago, one of the most important but least commented upon is between Russians who have remained in their own country and those who have fled abroad to avoid mobilization or in opposition to the Kremlin, Anastasia Tenisheva says.

            The Moscow Times journalist reports that Russians living in Moscow have told her that “those who have left have fallen out of touch” with those who have remained and “perceive everything in Russia in a negative light while those who stayed understand that life has not drastically changed apart from rising store prices and mobilization.”

            “Even among those who still live in Russia but are opposed to the war,” she says, “emigres are viewed as a distinct social group, defined by their more hawkish views toward the regime and pro-war Russians” (themoscowtimes.com/2024/02/24/despite-kremlins-calls-for-national-unity-war-is-dividing-russians-a84096).

            One of Tenisheva’s interlocutors, a Russian woman who went abroad and then returned, told her on condition of anonymity that she has stopped following independent Russian media, most of which is now based abroad because, in the journalist’s words, “exiled journalists fail to accurately portray what is happening inside Russia.”

            The returnee added that she has “mixed feeling about the idea that [emigres think] they are all building a new beautiful Russia somewhere.” And she concluded: “The illustion tha tone can remain part of Russia and live abroad has vanished.”

If Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky were Alive, Russians Say, They would have Collaborated to Write ‘War and the Idiot’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – On the second anniversary of Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, Russians observe that if Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky were alive now, they would have collaborated to write, War and the Idiot, with no one in any doubt as to what is the war and who is the idiot.

            That is just one of the anecdotes in the latest collection offered by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/47863/-). Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Two years ago, Putin started bombing Ukraine and all of Russia began to shake and bleed.

·       February 24 will become a new Russian holiday because there is no end in sight to that war.

·       European leaders are coming to Kyiv, while terrorists are coming to Moscow. To each his own.

·       Medvedev cracked that Navalny’s widow is smiling. She isn’t, but Medvedev’s widow would be as the wives of binge drinkers always look forward to their departure to another world.

·       Having banned 252 books referring to LGBT people, the Kremlin will soon ban books in general, except for one based on Putin’s interview with Tucker Carlson and that will become required reading for all Russians.

·       A Moscow court has now arrested in absentia Columbus for discovering America. Had he not done so, Russia would have escaped all its troubles.

·       They can poison but not cure; they can destroy but not fix; they can steal but not create; and they can lie but not tell the truth. Guess which country.

·       In Russia, people cooperate only when what they want to steal is too heavy for an individual to carry away.

·       Two St. Petersburg men were arrested for holding hands to avoid falling on the ice. They denied they belong to some criminal community but no one believes them.

·       The Russian Embassy in Washington protested to the State Department about Biden’s offensive remarks about Putin. Fortunately, the Americans don’t read Medvedev’s telegram channel or they’ d declare war on Russia.

Russian Court Bans Khabarovsk Movement as ‘Extremist’ Because It Opposed Putin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – The ‘I/We are Sergey Furgal” movement which emerged in Khabarovsk after Putin dismissed the popular opposition governor, organized daily street demonstrations in the second half of 2020 and in 2021, and captured the imagination of Russians everywhere has been declared extremist by a Russian court in that far eastern city.

            The Khabarovsk Kray court agreed with prosecutors that the group was “extremist” because it promoted hostility to the political authorities and thus undermined the stability and values of society (sova-center.ru/misuse/news/persecution/2024/02/d49351/ and transsibinfo.com/news/2024-02-22/dvizhenie-storonnikov-sergeya-furgala-priznali-ekstremistskim-v-habarovskom-krae-5006098).

            The I/We are Sergey Furgal movement faded from public view when the covid pandemic gave officials there the chance to ban all public demonstrations, but the decision now suggests that Moscow still fears a recurrence there that could well inspire people in other Russian regions to take similar actions.

            For background on this remarkable manifestation of Russian popular action, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/07/khabarovsk-residents-still-protesting.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/06/protests-will-continue-even-if-moscow.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/01/protests-continue-in-khabarovsk-and.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/10/putinism-and-fascism-are-synonyms.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/as-protests-enter-third-week-khabarovsk.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/long-dormant-institutions-of-democracy.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/focus-of-khabarovsk-protests-shifts.html.

Putin and His Country will Lose Even if Russia ‘Wins’ in Ukraine, History Teaches

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – It has become commonplace to assert that if Putin loses in Ukraine, not only his personal political future and that of his increasingly authoritarian system but also the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation will be at risk. But it is less often recognized that if the Kremlin leader “wins” there, he and his country will face disaster as well.

            Initially, of course, were Putin to succeed in having his army advance to the western borders of Ukraine and likely absorb much of Ukraine and perhaps other border countries into his Russia, he would proclaim victory and that claim would be accepted by many in Russia and the West as genuine and even encourage him to engage in more aggression.

            But there are compelling reasons, suggested by the historical experience of the Soviet Union after World War II that such “a victory” would be Pyrrhic at best and more likely would set the stage both for the demise of what is now the Russian Federation and for the trashing if not of the lives but the reputation of the author of Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine.

            Had Stalin not occupied Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and portions of Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, all of which consisted of populations unalterably hostile to Moscow’s rule, much of the impetus that led to the demise of the Soviet Union would have been absent and the world might well be still living with the USSR.

            In the event of a Putin victory in Ukraine, the same thing would be true with regard to the current Russian Federation. The addition of millions of Ukrainians, almost all at least as hostile to Moscow as the Balts and Western Ukrainians were, would push the ethnic Rusisan share of the population to what it was in 1991, with other non-Russians ever more anti-Russian as well.

            But most immediately, such a Russian “victory” would lead to the rise of a partisan army in Ukraine at least as large as the one that Stalin and Moscow faced after restoring Soviet “control” over Ukraine, the Baltic states, Belarus and Moldova as well. And that partisan army which took Moscow 11 years to defeat would likely fight as long as its predecessor did.

            Moscow might eventually “win” that battle this time around but only at the cost of intensifying anti-Russian sentiments in Ukraine just as it did earlier. Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians have always celebrated the Forest Brothers who fought the Nazis and the Soviets, and Ukrainians look back at the Ukrainian Partisan Army of the 1940s and 1950s with pride.

            These reflections are prompted by an article in the Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva which reports that the archives show there were at least 15,000 members of the UPA fighting in Belarus alone and that the last UPA partisan in that republic died in 1956 only after holding out for more than a decade (d1a9nnmcvk9pjz.cloudfront.net/ru/336450).

            Putin and his henchmen may believe that they can defeat a new partisan army more easily and quickly; but they are likely wrong  because such an army in the future just as in the past will have the support of the Ukrainian people and because such a force will inflict such damage on Russian occupiers that eventually even the population of the Russian Federation won't support what the Kremlin is doing.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Ukrainian Parliament Recognizes Right of Ingush People to Form an Independent State

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 23 – On the 80th anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of the Chechens and Ingush, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada voted to recognize the right of the Ingush people to form an independent state, an action that the Committee on Ingush Independence said was the result of its lobbying effort.

            The Ukrainian parliament called distribution of this text to all nations of the world (abn.org.ua/en/documents/today-ukraine-officially-recognized-the-right-of-the-ingush-people-to-create-an-independent-state/ and fortanga.org/2024/02/verhovnaya-rada-ukrainy-priznala-pravo-ingushskogo-naroda-na-sozdanie-nezavisimogo-gosudarstva/).

            This action follows the Verkhovna Rada’s declaration in October 2022 that Chechnya-Ichkeria is a temporarily occupied country and reflects the efforts of the Committee on Ingush Independence to secure an analogous declaration regarding its republic (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/12/ukraines-verkhovna-rada-set-to-condemn.html and https://t.me/ingcommittee/352).

            Moscow can be counted on to either ignore or denounce this move as the latest effort by Ukraine and the West to threaten the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation especially because it almost certainly will lead more non-Russian republics to seek similar declarations (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/11/zelensky-orders-study-on-extending.html).

            (For background on the Committee of Ingush Independence, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/03/creation-of-ingushetia-independence.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/09/committee-for-ingushetia-independence.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2024/02/ingushetia-independence-movement.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/02/emigre-founded-ingushetia-independence.html.)

On 80th Anniversary of Deportation of Chechens and Ingush, Moscow's Genocide of These Nations Continues

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 23 – The deportation of the Chechens and Ingush from their ancestral homelands on February 23, 1944 and the lies the Soviet government told about what it was doing are so horrific that it is easy to lose sight of something at least as significant: This act of genocide against these two peoples is tragically continuing.

            Genocide, the destruction of an ethnic community, usually involves mass murder and deportation. But it can take a variety of forms, all intended to destroy those against whom the powers that be deploy not only force but propaganda. And using this broader definition, it is obvious that the Putin regime is continuing the genocide that Stalin launched in 1944.

            As commentator Milana Ochirova observes, even today, 80 years after the deportation, the Russian authorities and their agents within the Chechen and Ingush peoples are tying to “erase” the memory of the tragedy and thus to erase part of their national existence (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2024/02/23/ne-slomimsia-ne-zaplachem-ne-prostim).

            And what is worse, she continues, is that this act of national destruction by propaganda appears to be intensifying, with the situation having gotten worse over the entire course of Putin’s rule and become especially horrific since the Kremlin leader began his expanded war against Ukraine two years ago.

            An indication of this was a draft school history textbook prepared by Vladimir Medinsky and Anatoly Torkunov (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/09/putins-new-history-textbook-sparks.html). It repeated the Stalinist lie that these nations were deported because they collaborated and sought to excuse his actions by saying others had deported peoples as well.

            That sparked outrage in the North Caucasus, and Moscow was forced to back down and offer an amended and less offensive and tendentious description of what had happened (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/10/moscow-promises-to-change-paragraph-on.html). That Kremlin retreat has obscured what else Moscow has been doing.

            Not only did the original draft go out to many schools across the Russian Federation but the amended version did not stop Moscow from taking steps against the efforts of Chechens, Ingush and other people of good willing from remembering the horrors of 1944 and pledging that such things will never be repeated.

            Monuments to the tragedy have been destroyed, conferences about the deportation have been cancelled or disrupted, and even the date of commemoration which should be on February 23 was changed in Chechnya by Ramzan Kadyrov lest it offend Moscow on the Russian Defenders of the Fatherland holiday.

            One 26-year-old Ingush language teacher provides a telling detail of just how far the Putin regime is prepared to go. After the fall of Soviet power, television, radio and schools on February 23rd were filled with stories about the deportation. “But the situation changed after the start of the war in Ukraine.”

            Teachers were told, she continues, that it was wrong to talk about the deportation and that instead they should speak on the anniversary of the 1944 deportations only about “’the heroism of participants in the special military operation.’” Last year, they thought this was a case of overfulfilling the plan. But that prohibition has continued and clearly reflects Kremlin policy.

            Consequently, on the 80th anniversary of the deportation, it is critically important for everyone of good will to speak in defense of the maintenance of memory of that event and to recognize that Putin in his regime are in effect continuing it by trying to suppress that memory and thus to destroy the nations who want to remember.

Regular Appearance of NATO Equipment on Patriotic Banners Reflects Deeper Problem in Russian Administration, Markelov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – The appearance of German helmets and NATO equipment on patriotic posters where they are presented as if they were Russian or Soviet has become “almost the norm for Russian regions, Sergey Markelov says, a pattern that reflects a deeper and more serious problem with Russian administration than many may think on first glance.

            Such mistakes, the Russian observer says, often elicit snickers; but they reflect the fact that those who make these mistakes know that the only thing those above them care about is that the task of preparing such materials is completed, not that it is done right (club-rf.ru/43/detail/7240).

            Markelov, who says he has worked in several regions, says the only thing the bosses care about is the completion of projects not correctness. They are certain that the only thing that matters is coming up with something on time rather than doing it right and have convinced themselves that those below them need to be obedient but not use their brains.

            Those who prepare such things will simply offer those above them three choices, and the heads of departments or higher will “simply choose the one they like best and send it off to print.” They will never ask whether the poster is correct; they will only want to know whether it has been produced on time.

            In psychology, he says, there is a term for this phenomenon – “mental blindness,” a problem that affects many governors who “really don’t see the streets covered with snow or garbage lying along the roads they drive on every day.”

Putin’s Russification Drive Creates Conditions for Russia’s Disintegration when Moscow becomes Weak, Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – Vladimir Putin is now pursuing a policy of “pure Russification,” convinced that that will make Russians out of the non-Russians of the country, Igor Eidman says. But by offending so many of the latter, including officials who appear to go along, the Kremlin leader is setting the stage for the disintegration of the country when and if Moscow weakens.

            The Russian sociologist who lives in Germany argues that “the current Putin fascist ideology is based on traditional imperialism, which in part existed in Stalin’s USSR and in part in the empire of the Romanovs (idelreal.org/a/sotsiolog-igor-eydman-putin-vernulsya-k-politike-rusifikatsii-chistoy-vody-/32822324.html).

            In Putin’s view as in his those of his predecessors, Eidman continues, “Russian are the elder brother ad the rest are some junior subordinate peoples who supported by the Russians are working toward the achievement of a common goal” even those the republics of the latter are “in essence Russian colonies.”

            “The majority of the representatives of Russia’s non-Russian nationalities have a completely different internal self-identification: They do not conceive themselves as non-ethnic Russians let alone ethnic ones. Rather they view themselves above all as Tatars, Bashkirs, Sakha, Buryats and so on.”

            The word for a non-ethnic Russian – rossiyanin – “means nothing to them; it is absolutely devoid of content,” he continues. They “don’t love Moscow; and consequently, “when this regime weakens, several republics will exit from Russia, and the further existence of the Russian empire will be put under question.” Even those who don’t leave will demand real federalism.

            According to Eidman, the Bashkir national movement is “one of the most prospective,” even though that republic does not have a border with a currently independent country.  But both there and in other non-Russian republics, elites recognize they have no way to advance or even survive if they do not profess undying loyalty to the Kremlin.

            But such professions of faith do not reflect the real values of the officials involved, Eidman says, especially under conditions of Putin’s Russification drive. And when the situation becomes less favorable to Moscow, such people will reveal their real views and align themselves with the national movements.

            Putin may not recognize this in his own time, but he should remember that that is exactly what happened in the last decade of the Soviet Union.

Putin Says He’s Fighting Satanism in Ukraine but Uses and Even Gives Awards to Satanists Released from Russian Jails to Fight There, Makhacheva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – When Vladimir Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine two years ago, the Kremlin leader said he was fighting satanism spread there by the West; but since then, his regime has released satanists from Russian jails and even celebrated them for their actions, Aleksandra Makhacheva says.

            According to the Russian commentator, no one should be surprised by this. Putin often charges his opponents with things he himself is guilty of. Among these is involvement with satanism, whose followers in Russia now form “a subculture whose members feel quite comfortable” there and even have been given government awards (theins.ru/obshestvo/267498).

            “For participation in this ‘holy war,’ Makhacheva continues, “the Russian authorities have released from prison murderers, cannibals and maniacs among whom are real satanists condemned for ritual murders.” And some of these, on their return from Ukraine, have again engaged in satanic rituals and landed back behind bars.

            As she points out, satanism has a long history in Russia and experienced revivals in the 1970s and again in the Putin years. One reason for its growth is that some Russians who dislike the pretensions of the Russian Orthodox Church or want to limit its influence view satanists, a group whose members vary widely, as useful allies against the Moscow Patriarchate.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Putin has Used Laws to Repress More People over His Last Term Alone than Khrushchev or Brezhnev did in the Same Way during Similar Periods while in Power, ‘Project Media’ Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – Investigative journalists at the Project Media Group have concluded that over the last six years of Putin’s time in power, “about 116,000 people, not including those charged with interfering with police actions or Covid limitations, suffered from direct repression,” a figure greater than those in similar periods under Khrushchev or Brezhnev.

            The figure of 116,000, the Project Media Group says, includes those subjected to criminal or administrative prosecution” under articles that are in fact political or repressive (proekt.media/guide/repressii-v-rossii/#war_ukraine  discussed at svoboda.org/a/proekt-putin-repressiroval-za-shestj-let-boljshe-lyudey-chem-brezhnev/32830764.html).

            It estimates that just over 5600 people were prosecuted for such “crimes” since 2018. In addition. In addition, there were 5800 charged with resisting Putin’s expanding invasion of Ukraine either by refusing to fight or opposing that war, and another 100,000 detained for taking part in demonstrations not approved in advance by the authorities.

            Under Khrushchev between 1956 and 1961, there were only 4800 people charged for analogous “crimes;” and under Brezhnev between 1968 and 1973, there were just 1057. But of course, Project acknowledges, there were other forms of repression and the death penalty, conditions making any real compilation and comparison virtually impossible.

            The two Soviet leaders used a variety of extra-legal means to repress people. Putin does as well, including murder as in the case of Aleksey Navalny. But because emigration is an option, the numbers of such actions  under the Russian president are likely far smaller than under the two Soviet leaders with whom Project Media drew these comparisons.

 

 

Russian Courts Giving Lighter Sentences to Women Guilty of Killing Their Partners in Partial Compensation for Limits on Their Ability to Claim Self-Defense, HSE Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – In 2017, Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure decriminalizing family violence because the Russian Orthodox Church and other advocates of traditional values argued that the state should not insert itself into such actions under most cases. But in the years since, Russian courts have compensated for this in an interesting way.

            They have done so, Svetlana Zhuzhkova and Anton Kazun, two scholars at Moscow’s HSE, say by imposing significantly shorter sentences to women killing their partners than to men who do the same thing (tochno.st/materials/zenshhiny-polucaiut-bolee-miagkie-sroki-za-ubiistvo-cem-muzciny-eto-mozet-byt-kompensaciei-za-nevozmoznost-zashhititsia-ot-domasnego-nasiliia).

            Because 78 percent of all women charged with murder are accused of killing their partners, while only nine percent of men are, the fact that women are given sentences several months shorter than men found guilty of the same crimes not only has enormous consequences on punishment but is at odds with one might expect in a society celebrating patriarchal values.

            “In a patriarchal society,” the authors write, “a man has an implicit right to violence against a woman but a woman is expected to be submissive rather than to resist. But an analysis of verdicts shows that the opposite is true: women who killed an intimate partner are treated more leniently by judges than are other murder defendants.”

            What makes this finding intriguing is that Russian judges by their sentences are defending women in ways that the Duma and Putin don’t believe should be taking place. Of course, this pattern also reflects the fact that most Russian judges are women and that many believe that taking women out of the home longer will impose greater social costs.

Russian Ignorance of the Past and Kowtowing to West Blamed for New ‘Krestopad’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – At the beginning of Soviet times, the Bolsheviks removed and destroyed religious symbols on churches to destroy the influence of religion and promote atheism, a series of actions that Christians there then and since have referred to as the krestopad, perhaps best translated as “the removal of crosses.”

            Now, Petr Akopov, an observer for the Novosti news agency, says, Russia is experiencing a new krestopad, one that involves not the removal of symbols from churches on the way to their destruction but rather the removal of such symbols from images of churches “on coats of arms, posters, and logos” (regnum.ru/opinion/3868946).

            And he places the blame for this development not on some secret government decree or satanist conspiracy but on ignorance and indifference and on the propensity of Russians to copy without thinking what people in the West are doing such as when Americans stop referring to Christmas as Christmas and instead call that date “the holidays.”

            Over the past year, there have been various cases in which crosses that really are present on buildings in Russia are removed when pictures of these buildings have appeared on ruble bills or on the revised coats of arms or pictures of various regions around the country, the Novosti observer says.

            Some have suggested that this reflects the recognition that the crosses are too small to be displayed electronically. Others have said that it is the product of some secret order from on high. But those are not the real reasons, Akopov says. Instead, there are two which must be recognized and fought.

            On the one hand, far too many Russians take what is happening in the West as their model. When Western countries devalue religion, some in Russia think that is the way to go and remove crosses and other religious symbols from coats of arms and the like to be “modern.” But that is a betrayal of national values, the observer insists.

            And on the other hand – and this is the more important cause, he suggests – the more serious problem is “ignorance of one’s own history and the faith of one’s ancestors,” a phenomenon to be found “in all spheres of our life” and not just among the younger generations, as some think, but in society as a whole.

            This “ignorance of Russian history forms an individual who is not capable of understanding and assessing what is taking place in the country now and so is easily manipulated. And the distance from erasing a cross to erasing the country is not that great,” Akopov concludes.

 

Moscow Weaponizes Ethnography Institute by Naming Politically-Connected Finno-Ugric Specialist as Its New Head

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 21 – Over the objections of the staff of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, the Ministry of Education and Science has fired Dmitry Funk as its director and replaced him with Aleksey Zagrebin, a former State Duma deputy and longtime specialist on the Finno-Ugric nations of the Russian Federation (interfax.ru/russia/946434).

            The meaning of this controversial change was made clear in comments by Sergey Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (iea-ras.ru/?p=13512), and by the Anti-Imperial Bloc of Nations portal (abn.org.ua/en/news/the-institute-of-ethnology-and-anthropology-of-the-russian-academy-of-sciences-is-headed-by-a-researcher-of-the-ethnography-of-finno-ugric-nations/).

            Naryshkin, for his part, says that “Russia historically has been formed as a multi-national state which has become the home for a multitude of peoples and ethnoses. In this is our strength and at the same time a vulnerability as it has happened that enemies, understanding that defeating Russia on the battlefield is impossible seek to divide it from the inside using in the first instance the nationality factor.”

            “Therefore,” he continues, “today, the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences is one of the key and truly strategic centers of socio-humanitarian knowledge. Its potential is very much required for the development of specific recommendations for the strengthening of inter-ethnic accord under conditions of unprecedented pressure on Russia from the outside.”

            “I am certain that under the leadership of Aleksey Yegorovich Zagrebin, a serious scholar and a man with broad state thinking, the Institute will get an additional impulse for the development and active involvement in the resolution of the tasks standing before the country,” Naryshkin concludes.

            The Anti-Imperial Block of Nations is even more blunt about the political meaning of Funk’s firing and Zagrebin’s appointment in his stead. According to ABN, “such an appointment is the direct consequence of the fear of the rulers of its impending collapse” and their efforts to delay that as long as possible.

            “By placing officials specializing in Finno-Ugric issues in senior positions in the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Putin government intends to find effective levers of influence to ‘stifle’ for the foreseeable future the growth of national self-awareness of the Finno-Ugric nations because that holds the key to the collapse of Moscow identity.”

 

Moscow Tightening Screws on Circassians who have Returned to Their North Caucasus Homeland, Reducing Prospects for Revival of National Movement There, Activists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 21 – Since the expanded war in Ukraine began two years ago, Russian officials have tightened the screws on those Circassians who have returned to their North Caucasus homeland, restricting their activities, treating them as Russians rather than Circassians, and insisting they actively support the Kremlin rather than simply avoid criticizing it.

            At a time when fewer Circassians want to return and when Moscow is placing restrictions on those who do, that is the message coming from some of the roughly 3,000 Circassians who have returned to the North Caucasus over the last 15 years (kavkazr.com/a/ya-snova-teryayu-rodinu-cherkesy-iz-turtsii-i-sirii-o-zhizni-posle-vozvrascheniya-v-rossiyu-/32824422.html).

            Indeed, the situation has become so dire for the returnees, that these activists say that there is little reason to expect a rebirth of the Circassian national movement inside Russia until there is regime change, that is, until Vladimir Putin leaves the scene. Until then, few Circassians abroad will want to go back; and those already there will simply try to avoid trouble.

Not Everyone from Altai Republic Fighting for Moscow in Ukraine is Doing So Out of Poverty, Altai Émigré Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 21 – Amyr Aytashev, a political refugee from the impoverished Altai Republic in southern Siberia, says that some of his countrymen undoubtedly agreed to fight for Moscow in Ukraine to get money but more did so because they thought it would be interesting and felt that they could take pride that the Altai people were doing something important.

            “I don’t think support for the war there is related directly to poverty,” he continues. “Few people admit that we live in poverty. People are used to it and their demands are low” (semnasem.org/articles/2024/02/21/nastradalis-altajcy-i-oni-molchat-im-kazhetsya-chto-luchshe-perezhdat).

            Instead, Aytashev who now lives in the US but follows events in his homeland says, many thought it would be interesting to go there “especially as there is nothing interesting” at home and were “even pleased by the idea that the Altai people are fighting there as there is such pride in one’s own people” finally doing something.

            In other comments, he says that he “understands that the war has not made the situation of the Altai people any worse or precisely not much worse. We already were at rock bottom … we simply did not have room to fall any further. Instead, the Altai people feel lost, but this doesn’t translate into political outrage,” at least against Putin.

            There won’t be any protest voting in the republic because “the majority of Altai people do not have anything against Putin.” If there is any protest voting, it will be directed not at him but at the ethnic Russian United Russia governor Aleg Khokhordin. The reason? The population  “simply thinks that it is impossible to achieve anything and there’s no sense in trying.”

‘In Bad Times like These, Anyone who Thinks Turns Out to be a Dissident,’ Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 21 – In reflecting upon their situation under Vladimir Putin, some Russians are now saying that “in bad times like the ones at present, anyone who thinks independently turns out to be a dissident in the eyes of the powers that be and suffers accordingly.”

            This is just one of the anecdotes in the latest collection posted online by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/47832/-). Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       In a secret circular, the authorities have decided to order Russians to smile because even frowns are a discredit to the regime.

·       Polls now show that a majority of Russians supports the execution of the majority of Russians.

·       Putin has decided to boost the birthrate by taking housing away from Russians who don’t give birth and handing their residences over to migrants who traditionally have more children.

·       Immediately after Navalny’s death, Putin promoted four jailors to the rank of major general, an action that apparently was no coincidence.

·       The cursed wild 1990s led Russians to develop the bad habit of expecting that they would be able to eat every day, but after the upcoming presidential election, Putin will cure them of that.

·       As in 1937, the powers that be are arresting officials of the All-Russian Society of the Deaf. And once again, “when they came for the deaf, we didn’t say anything …”

·       The grandchildren of those who read the works of the late satirist Vladimir Voinovich will again be reading his Adventures of Ivan Chonkin in samizdat now that his books are being taken out of libraries.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Moscow Set to Re-Establish Nationalities Ministry, an Institution It can’t Live Without but can’t Live With

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 21 – Gennady Semigin, chairman of the Russian Duma’s Committee on Nationality Affairs, says his group has approved a bill that would replace the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs (FADN) with a Ministry for Nationality Affairs (pnp.ru/politics/v-rossii-mozhet-poyavitsya-ministerstvo-po-delam-nacionalnostey.html).

            That step is entirely appropriate, he says, because of the additional responsibilities the FADN has been given by the government last month, including an expanded role regarding immigrants (pnp.ru/politics/kabmin-budet-otchityvatsya-pered-parlamentom-o-realizacii-strategii-nacpolitiki.html), mean that it needs that status.

            Whether Semigin’s prediction will prove true remains an open question given the difficulties Russian governments have had with structures overseeing nationality issues given that ethnic issues arise in almost every sector of government activity and no one wants the appearance of a super ministry that would inevitably undercut their own powers.

            That is why the history of nationality ministries in Russia is so fraught. The tsarist regime did not have one at all, but the Soviets created one in 1917, the Peoples Commissariat for Nationality Affairs (Narkmonats) with Stalin in charge, only to disband it in 2024 (ria.ru/20150313/1052460180.html).

            Neither Stalin nor subsequent Soviet leaders were prepared to have such a problematic institution again. Only in March 1990, at the very end of Soviet times, did Moscow form a State Committee on Nationality Questions. But it lasted only until November 1991 when it was transformed into a State Committee on Nationality Policy (libussr.ru/doc_ussr/usr_19710.htm).

            In March 1993, that body was renamed the State Committee for the Affairs of the Federation and Nationalities; and then in January 1994 that institution became the Ministry of the Russian Federation for the Affairs of Nationalities and Regional Policy. In March 1996, that in turn was reorganized into the Ministry for the Affairs of Nationalities and Federal Relations.

            This ministry underwent several reorganizations and renamings at the end of the 1990s, and then it was disbanded by Vladimir Putin in October 2001; but until 2004, its functions that had been shifted to other ministries were overseen by Vladimir Zorin, who had the title of minister without portfolio.

            For the following decade, there was no nationalities ministry or committee; instead, its functions were subordinate to the Ministry for Regional Affairs. But after that institution was disbanded on Putin’s order in 2014, the Kremlin decided to establish the FADN which was created the following year.

            In sum, the nationalities ministry or something having its responsibilities but under a different name is something the Russian leadership has found it can’t easily live with but can’t easily live without. 

After Killing Navalny, Putin Likely to Turn on His Own Most Rabid Supporters Next, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 20 – The murder of Aleksey Navalny, Vladimir Pastukhov says, represents the end of one act of Putin’s “’reactionary revolution,’” in which the Kremlin leader is pursuing “the utopian goal of turning Russian and, if possible, all world history, back,” and the likely beginning of another.

            “If this hypothesis is correct,” the London-based Russian analyst say, “then, the further course of events will be determined to a greater extent by the internal logic of the development of the revolution … than by the logic of the external (‘imperialist’) war” (t.me/v_pastukhov/92 reposted at kasparov.ru/material.php?id=65D4BD563D200&section_id=50A6C962A3D7C).

            In some respects, Pastukhov continues, “the murder of Navalny represents ‘the ceiling’ of this revolution.” In the short term, the general thrus may slow down slightly and “possibility but not necessarily,” his efforts to achieve his goal “will go downhill.” At the same time, however, “the intensity of events including of course terror will go up.”

            Because of this conjunction, he says, many may not understand that the revolution has passed into a new phase and that in that phase, the Kremlin’s targets will change fro”They m real and imagined opponents to those who are now the most rabid of its supporters, enthusiasts who do not understand that they are now a problem as Stalinists were to Stalin in 1937.

            Pastukhov says he doesn’t know what will be the triggering event of this transformation but that he has “little doubt that the next major event in the evolution of the regime after Navalny’s murder will be the weeding out of the ‘Russian world’ enthusiasts, those who today shout excitedly but don’t understand.”

            They are likely going to be Putin’s next targets, the London-based Russian analyst says, adding that he “hopes they will go to the punishment cells with Putin’s name on their lips …”

Russian Defense Ministry Facing Problems Recruiting Women Prisoners to Fight in Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 20 – For more than a year and facing both demographic shortages and combat losses, Moscow has tried to recruit women to fight in its expanded invasion of Ukraine. Up to now, most of the female criminals who have agreed to fight there have gone into “private military companies” rather than regular army units.

            But there have been efforts to recruit them for the regular Russian army on a basis similar to that used for men (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/03/moscow-sending-women-prisoners-to-fill.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/10/pmc-controlled-by-russian-defense.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/11/to-address-russias-demographic-crisis.html).

            Now, in what it describes as the first documented case of this, the Important Stories portal points out that Moscow is facing an uphill battle, with many female prisoners interested in going in order to get amnesties but then refusing to do so when they learn they’ll be cannon fodder (istories.media/news/2024/02/19/vazhnie-istorii-uznali-o-verbovke-na-voinu-zhenshchin-zaklyuchennikh/).

            The portal focused on the corrective labor colony for women in the settlement of Ulyanovka in Leningrad Oblast. There, initially 30 to 50 women expressed interest in serving initially but the numbers ready to do so dropped to only a handful once they learned what they would be facing.

            Important Stories was able to identify only two of them by making contact with their relatives; but the conclusion is inescapable that Moscow’s ability to recruit female prisoners by promising them amnesty is running into difficulties as soon as the women learn just how they will be used and the risks they will be running.

Ethnic Russians in Non-Russian Republics Increasingly Insisting They’re ‘Indigenous’ – and Non-Russians There are Resisting

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 20 – Another development which some non-Russians see as yet another threat to their status and that of their national autonomies within the Russian Federation is that ever more ethnic Russians living in these republics are demanding official recognition that they too are “indigenous.”

            Until a decade ago, Russian scholars and officials rarely talked about indigenous peoples except with regard to the numerically small peoples of the North and Far East; but now because of migration and the rise of decolonial movements, the issue of who is indigenous has spread (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/03/window-on-eurasia-migration-flows-raise.html).

            Taking as their model Russian law and practice with regard to the numerically small nations of the North and Far East which gives special privileges to their members and denies them to others even if the latter live among them, ever more non-Russians are insisting that they are indigenous and the Russian migrants who live among them are not.

            In the North and the Far East, those who claim indigeneity are often forced to provide proof in the courts; and it is not unthinkable that some non-Russians elsewhere might like to introduce similar procedures for those who have moved into their areas but who are now claiming to be indigenous.

            These claims and counter-claims are beginning to spark controversy in many parts of the country and are likely to increase in frequency and scale in the coming months and years, possibly becoming one of the main battle lines between non-Russians and ethnic Russians in the future (idel-ural.org/archives/russkye-hotyat-byt-korennymy-pochemu-u-nyh-ne-poluchytsya/).

 

Moscow’s Use of Trans-National Repression has Grown and Become Unashamed Since Start of Expanded Invasion of Ukraine, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 20 – Even more than its Soviet predecessor, the government of the Russian Federation has engaged in trans-national repressions, the term experts use to describe actions ranging from harassment to murder against its opponents abroad, Freedom House and other experts who track this plague say.

            But since the start of the expanded invasion of Ukraine, Moscow’s use of this tactic has grown with its authors becoming increasingly unashamed and making it a regular part of their system, these experts say (novayagazeta.ee/articles/2024/02/19/rodina-tebia-ne-zabudet-chto-takoe-transnatsionalFnye-repressii-i-kak-oni-ugrozhaiut-rossiianam-pokinuvshim-rodinu).

            One of the reasons this has happened, they continue, is that the number of Russians who have fled abroad because of the threat of mobilization has increased dramatically. But another is that the Putin regime understands that being more public about what it is doing means that it is able to repress the majority of them by attacking only a relative few.

            According to Novaya Gazeta journalist Olga Nadezhdina, “the Kremlin’s approach is a natural extension of its conception of ‘political war.’ Its readiness to kill those it considers its enemies has been manifested in a minimum of four countries: Ukraine, Bulgaria, Germany and Great Britain,” first and foremost against Chechens but increasingly against Russians as well.

            Sergey Ross, an investigator at the Collective Action organization, says that since the beginning of the expanded war in Ukraine, attacks, from murder to simple harassment, in this category have increased dramatically, although statistics are difficult to come by. Only the US government maintains them and only for cases in the US.

            They agree that the most comprehensive listing of Moscow attacks of this kind is provided by Freedom House and point to its reports as a place to begin both for investigators and for Russians abroad who want to defend themselves against trans-national repression. (The latest Freedom House report with updates is available at freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2021-02/FH_TransnationalRepressionReport2021_rev020221_CaseStudy_Russia.pdf.)

Putin Following Same Strategy in Navalny Case He Earlier Used with Magnitsky, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 20 – Vladimir Putin is following exactly the same playbook in both the case of Andrey Navalny that he used 15 years ago in that of Sergey Magnitsky, Vladimir Putin says. After killing both when they were behind bars, the Kremlin leader adopted a strategy designed to muddy the waters so as to be able to claim Putin’s non-involvement.

            Then  and again now, the Kremlin-controlled media put out the word that his death was an unhappy accident while unofficially suggesting that the killing was carried out by the enemies of Russia since Moscow had no motive to take such action, the London-based Russian analyst says (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=65D0E2C7B9D30&section_id=50A6C962A3D7C).

            In both cases, the claim that Moscow had no motive became the Kremlin’s chief “alibi,” with Moscow insisting since there was no motive, there was no reason to believe that it was somehow responsible for the crime. Anyone questioning that notion was asked to provide evidence, something the Kremlin worked hard the and now to hide.

            “Many people suppose that the lack of rational motives” in these cases “means the lack of a motive altogether,” Pastukhov continues. But “that is not so: besides rational motives, there exist irrational ones,” not to mention the possibility of killing because the authors of the crime in the Kremlin could do so with apparent impunity.

            In Pastukhov’s view, there clearly is a motive for both murders: “the irrational fear of the system that everything rests” on the shakiest of foundations that therefore “any unextinguished opposition” threatens to bring down the system, a fear that is especially great when the Kremlin is facing an election as it did at the time of Magnitsky’s death and does again now.

 

Fear of Destabilization has Heightened Russian Hostility to Any Opposition and Support for Harsh Punishments, Makarkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 20 – Moscow analyst Aleksey Markarkin says there are two “political fears” in contemporary Russia: the fear of punishment dating back to Soviet times and the fear of destabilization and the collapse of the state. The former ebbed at the end of that period, but the latter has only grown because the Soviet Union apparently collapsed so easily.

            There was relatively little fear of destabilization and collapse until the USSR crashed and disintegrated, he continues, because most of its residents did not believe that a great power could fall apart easily only to see their beliefs destroyed by reality (t.me/BuninCo/4211 reposted at kasparov.ru/material.php?id=65D3812C1991B&section_id=50A6C962A3D7C).

            After the collapse, support for protecting the state increased and hostility toward any opposition other than the most loyal intensified. “At the same time,” Makarkin continues, “the fear of destabilization is playing another important role: it is ‘ennobling’ the fear of punishment,” by providing a “patriotic” justification for non-participation in politics.

            Younger Russians have “significantly less fear of destabilization and collapse” because they were “either very young in 1991 or had not yet in fact been born.” But it remains very strong among their elders and they are the people in power, Makarkin concludes, and in a position to set the weather ideologically.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Lack of Amenities in Russia’s Villages and Smaller Cities Behind Rather than Low Pay Primary Cause of Flight of Young to Major Cities, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 19 – It is generally believed that young Russians are fleeing the country’s villages and smaller cities and moving to major metropolises in pursuit of higher incomes; but a new study by Moscow’s Stolypin Institute on Economic Growth finds that the lack of cultural amenities and infrastructure in the former is a more significant cause.

            The institute conducted focus groups with nearly 200 young people who had moved to major cities and found that 36 percent of those from the Siberian FD and 31 from the North-West FD pointed to the dearth of cultural amenities and infrastructure in the places they left as the reason (kommersant.ru/doc/6523580).

 These figures were higher among what the investigators acknowledge was an anything but statistically representative sample than the 19 percent and 27 percent respectively who said they had moved to major cities in pursuit of higher incomes. But they say this study, the first of its kind, has relevance for policy makers.

Specifically, institute leaders say that it means that if Moscow really wants young people to remain in the villages and smaller cities then the central government needs to focus on improving entertainment, housing and transportation in the former rather than assuming that it can achieve that goal by somehow boosting incomes there.

But Russian experts are skeptical that this could be achieved. Natalya Zubarevich, a geographer at Moscow State University, for example, says that the pattern of young people moving to big cities is nearly universal in recent decades and that it is “naïve” to think the government can reverse that even by the means the Stolypin Institute proposes.

            The institute’s study clearly is part of Moscow’s search for a way to prevent the depopulation of rural areas and boost Russia’s birthrate by keeping more young people outside of Russian metropolises. Zubrevich’s words clearly indicate that there is little reason to think that the Kremlin can get young people to stay or return to villages in the way the institute suggests.

Moscow and Minsk Seek to Destroy Radically Conservative Orthodox Group whose Views are Spreading within ROC MP

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 19 -- More than 700 of the 10,000 followers of a dissident Russian Orthodox sect have been arrested in recent weeks by the Russian and Belarusian authorities because officials and official churchmen fear the views of the group are spreading too rapidly among conservative elements in the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

            These actions have received little attention, journalist Lera Furman says, because the group, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Tsarist Empire (ROC-TE) is extreme in its doctrines and its members are concentrated in rural areas of the Russian Federation and Belarus (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2024/02/19/konets-volnogo-tsarebozhiia).

            She reports that hierarchs of the ROC MP “have approved this pogrom of their confessional opponents” because they see the sect as “a real threat to the monopoly of the Moscow Patriarchate” and are quite willing to have the state do their dirty work for the officially sanctioned church.

            The clergy and laity of the ROC-TE focuses on the last tsar and awaits the return of monarchy in Russia. The community meets in house churches and uses social networks to keep in touch with one another. And its members seek to live separately, refusing official documents like passports or money, lest they be contaminated by the current regime.

            While few other Orthodox accept all of the tenets of the ROC-TE, many agree with the dissident church’s focus on the tsarist past, its anti-globalism and its commitment to live apart in what both they and the ROC-TE view as the last days before the Apocalypse. The attractiveness for many Russians of these views helps explain what the authorities are doing to the group.