Sunday, March 31, 2024

Unlike Ukrainians, Russians Lack a Vision of Future They’re Ready to Die For; But Once They Gain One, There will be a Revolution, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 28 – “People have rarely been ready to die for whatever exists in the present,” Abbas Gallyamov says; “but they often have been ready to do so in the name of a future” they believe in. Ukrainians have such a vision and are fighting heroically for it; Russians haven’t been given one and thus have fewer reasons to fight or even defend the present.

            In fact, the former Putin speechwriter says, “Putin’s Russia is not capable of working with the future: it’s fetish is the past, some kind of unthinkable archaic arrangement which combines Stalinism with the aesthetics of the era of Ivan the Terrible infected with primal fears” (

            “Over the long term,” Gallyamov says, “such an approach will only work with naitons that have not experienced either modernity or normal life; but the Russians have seen modernity and even managed to live normally.” Consequently, they or at least their elites are not prepared to live for very long without a positive vision of the future for themselves.

            And not having one, he continues, “even supporters of Putin have stopped showing much faith in the prospects of their country. All the arguments they advance for their leader are reducible to two theses: either without him things will be still worse or the often spoken question -- ‘who else is there?’” – hardly a sign of optimism.

            According to Gallyamov, “the current militarist bravado of the loyalist part of the society is based not on a confident faith in a bright future but on the despair of a drunkard tired of his hopeless life and prepared to embark on a wild spree. Rallying around Putin … is thus rallying around a military leader and not around a prophet.”

            As a result, “anomie is already coming, a feeling that includes general depression, alienation, embitterment, the disintegration of social ties, alcoholism, drug addiction, crime and widespread cynicism.” And out of that will come “a revolution because the nation will not want to live in such a bestial state forever.”

            Once Russians acquire an image of the future and some understanding of how to get there, Gallyamov concludes, “no amount of repression will be able to stop them.” That is what the Ukrainians are displaying. Their heroism is “not because they lived well and have something to lose” but because they have faith that “a normal and democratic Ukraine is possible.”

            And that is why Ukraine is such a threat to Putin: it is an object lesson of what will happen in Russia when Russians finally acquire an image of a normal democratic future and recognize that the only way to get there is to get rid of him and his archaic political and social system. 

West Trying to Set Muslims and Christians in Russia Against One Another Just as It did in Yugoslavia in 1990s, Patriarch Kirill Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 28 – The Crocus City Hall terrorist attack is the latest example of the West’s longstanding effort to set Russia’s Christians and Russia’s Muslims against one another, Patriarch Kirill says, an effort that resembles the one that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia but can’t be allowed to have that result in the case of the Russian Federation.

            Speaking to the World Russian Popular Assembly, the Russian churchman said that the West hopes it can use Russia’s domestic problems with immigrants against Russian unity (

            What occurred, Kirill continued, was an attempt to “divide people on a religious basis” and set them in “conflict with one another,” something that “we cannot allow to happen in Russia” where the basic mass of believers in both these faiths share a common “worldview” and “moral position.”

            “Our task, of course,” the Russian patriarch said, “is to preserve with all our might the unity of the Russian world,” a task that requires vigilance because such Western efforts to promote discord can have serious consequences as was the case in the former Yugoslavia more than two decades ago.

After Latest Terrorist Attack, Russians Want to Carry Weapons But Only Serving Officers Should have That Right, Popov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 28 – After a terrorist attack like the one at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow, it is no surprise that some Russians believe that they must be granted the right to carry weapons in public, convinced that if they have that right, that will prevent such outrages or at least allow potential victims to defend themselves.

            They are now pressing legislators to give them this right, Moskovsky komsomolets commentator Dmitry Popov says; but on reflection, many can see that doing this would be a big mistake (

            Russians go to concerts to relax and often drink toward that end, and the idea that drunken people with guns will do more good than harm is absurd. Instead, Popov suggests, there are two reasonable steps that the Russian authorities should take in order to prevent yet more outrages.

            On the one hand, Russian lawmakers should require operators of public venues to use metal detectors to ensure that no one with a weapon can get in. And on the other, they should give Russian military officers “the right to freely carry a service pistol,” a right they had in Soviet times “until the end of the 1960s.”

            “In a country at war,” Popov continues, “the sight of a military office with a service weapon evokes in any normal citizen a legitimate feeling of reliability, support and security; and at the same time, it spreads fear among the enemies of the people.” It is thus an entirely “useful idea” and “we need to implement it.”

‘Progress Will Be When Siloviki Still Kill but Don’t Cut Off Ears,’ Russians Recall Iskander Saying

Paul Goble

            Staunton Mar. 28 – Often anecdotes in Russia take the form of quotations from prominent people in the past whose observations capture what is happening now. An example of this, some Russians say, is Abkhazian writer Fazil Iskander’s observation that “progress, friends, is when they still kill but no longer cut off ears.”

            That is just one of the anecdotes in the latest collection assembled by journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova ( – and perhaps the last because Moscow has blocked the Publicist site where they have appeared ( One hopes there will be more. Among the best on this last list are the following:

·       Pro-Kremlin showman Shaman was ready with a video on the terrorist attack only a day after that event happened. One wonders how he’ll cope when the Kremlin announces it is going to launch nuclear weapons.

·       The latest effort by Russian scientists is to come up for a prosthetic that can be used if someone’s ears are cut off.

·       For ordinary Russians, prices have risen because spending on the military and security services has increased so dramatically. But for those in these branches, such spending has boosted their well-being. It would be odd if it were otherwise given their power in the current regime.

·       A few immigrants may be sent packing but not many because Russia is more hooked on migrants than a drug addict who has been using the latter for 20 years.

·       The only gas shortage that matters is if one affects Moscow’s ability to move its tanks about.

·       Kremlin media now say that the Ukrainian security services organized the explosion of the Krakatau volcano in 1883, at a time when Ukrainian nationalists with Tajik names were reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf even though it was written 40 years later.

Fewer Russians Now Identify as Orthodox Christians than Did Seven Years Ago but a Larger Share of Those who Do are Active, VTsIOM Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 26 – During a period when the Kremlin has been promoting Orthodox Christianity, the share of Russians who identify as followers of that denomination has fallen from 75 percent in 2017 to 66 percent now, according to a VTsIOM poll. But of those who identify as such, the share who say they keep fasts has risen.

            According to surveys from 2017 to 2022, 71 to 75 percent of Russian Orthodox said they did not keep the fast; but now, only 56 percent say they don’t. And this change has been especially great in the last two years: in 2022, 74 percent said they ignored the fast t; now only 56 percent do (

            At the same time, VTsIOM finds that only four percent of those who identify as Russian Orthodox observe all fasts, with somewhat higher percentages simply restricting their consumption of alcohol or meat or avoiding using foul language. More generally, only 22 percent regularly attend church services, and only 13 percent pray on a daily basis.

            A large portion of all these developments reflect generational change: Only 38 percent of Russians between the ages of 18 and 24 identify as Orthodox (and only 52 percent of those between 25 and 34 do so) while among those 35 and older, the percentage doing so is 69 to 75 percent.

            Commenting on these results, Moscow analyst Aleksey Makarkin says that “with the change of generations, the number of believers is contracting as among young people atheism has become “fashionable” just as three decades ago it was “fashionable” to identify oneself as Orthodox.”

            But “at the same time, among the Orthodox is observed a trend toward following the rules, albeit selectively, with people themselves defining” which ones they will observe and how rather than blindly following what the ROC MP declares.

In Border Talks, Both Baku and Yerevan Now Focusing on Non-Enclave Villages

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 26 – In almost any project, the two most difficult times are the beginning when a decision to do something has to be taken and the end when the final details have to be worked out, with the latter typically far more difficult and time-consuming than any of the intervening periods.

            So it is proving with negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan about border delimitation, with disputes about the exclaves that existed in Soviet times now fading but conflicts about “non-enclave” villages and the agricultural areas around them located along the border increasingly taking center stage where both sides are digging in.

            Progress on the exclaves has been significant and much chronicled. (On that, see, and

            Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has agreed to return to Azerbaijani control four exclave villages and their surrounding area but is refusing to return four additional “non-exclave” villages that Baku says belong to it. He adds that Armenia also wants effective control over 31 “non-exclave” villages now occupied or surrounded by Azerbaijani troops ( and

            The situation risks triggering an explosion because many Armenians believe what Azerbaijan is doing represents a laying of the ground work for another Baku offensive against the Armenian state  and because residents of some of these villages are threatening protests or even violent actions to block any further concessions (о-требованиях-баку-мнение-немецкого-п/).

Russian Orthodox Finding Ways to Break with Increasingly Bellicose Moscow Patriarchate, Zanemonets Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 27 – This week, the World Russian Popular Assembly, which is led and controlled by Moscow Patriarch Kirill, declared Russia’s military operation in Ukraine “a holy war in which Russia an its people, in defending the single spiritual space of Holy Rus is fulfilling the mission of defending the world from globalism and satanism.”

            Moreover, Kirill’s group declared that “the possibility of the existence on this territory of a Russophobic regime hostile to Russia and its people and one run from an external center hostile to Russia must be completely excluded” (

            Such a call represents a call for the destruction of the Ukrainian state and certainly is what Kirill and his bosses in the Kremlin want, but Aleksandr Zanemonets, a Finnish Orthodox churchman, says that it doesn’t reflect what many in the Russian Orthodox Church believe and that its members have options (

            Given Russian tradition and the tendency of others to follow it, many assume that whatever the top person says in any Russian hierarchy is what everyone below him or her believes, but that is not the case in any of these, the priest, who is subordinate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constaninople and who follows Russian Orthodoxy from the Netherlands, says.

            Many people in the ROC MP do not accept what Kirill and his like are saying. As in Soviet times, it is dangerous for them to speak out; but many of them do what they can by acting to help Ukrainians who have fled the war and by discouraging young Russians from going there to fight.

            Some Russian Orthodox churchmen have fled the country where they find it far easier to express their views, Zanemonets says, because Orthodox leaders in other countries including Finland don’t follow Moscow’s line. But while they have greater freedom of speech, they have less influence in practical ways than those who remain inside Russia.

            He concludes his commentary by quoting the observation of the late émigré churchman, Father Aleksandr Shmeman, who observed that “there is one path for those who leave and another path for those who remain” but who also insisted that in either situation, Orthodox Christians must strive to remain human.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Shortcomings of Last Russian Census Contributing to Policy Mistakes Now, Moscow Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 26 –The 2020/21 Russian census, most experts and observers say, suffered from serious shortcomings: It took place during the covid pandemic, and large numbers of Russians were never contacted directly. Instead, census takers used other, less reliable sources to come up with their numbers.

            But those mistakes are now playing havoc with Russian policy making because officials both in Moscow and in the regions are acting as if the official returns were in fact accurate when in fact they were not, something that means the shortcomings of this enumeration are not just a statistical oddity but have already led to mistaken policies.

            The is the conclusion the To Be Precise portal reaches on the basis of conversations with experts and its own analysis of census data and their impact (

            Russian demographers and sociologists say that because of the pandemic, 42 percent of the population of the country did not take part in the 2020/21 census, eight times more than was the case in the 2002 and 2010 enumerations. Rosstat took data for and about them from alternatives souces.

            In some cases, this was not a problem because there are other sources for the data the census needs; but in others, there are either no other sources at all or they are unreliable – and on such critical issues as ethnic self-identification, native language, and informal living arrangements, there are no good alternatives to the census.

            Consequently, the experts the To Be Precise survey say, figures for these and many other categories of information were simply at best estimates and at worse completely made up, thus distorting the picture of Russian society its rulers need to make decisions and ensuring that many decisions are increasingly made on the basis of bad information and thus lead to mistakes.

            In the words of Moscow State University geographer Natalya Zubarevich, if the authorities don’t have an accurate census that serves as a check on “statistical errors accumulated over a decade,” governments at all levels don’t have the information they need to make informed policy and are in effect flying blind.

            Among the mistakes that officials are now using as gospel are data sets about the growth in the number of employed in the economy. Some are inclined to think that the figures being used reflect mobilization but in fact they are something Rosstat offered without having the necessary basis to do so.

            According to Moscow experts, Rosstat has done what it can to hide these shortcomings by presenting the data it has in ways that often do not allow investigators to cross check the figures that state statistical office provides. But there is enough evidence that the last census was seriously flawed and that it is casting a shadow on Russian governance.

            One result of this is that some in Russia are now calling for the country to do away with censuses altogether and introduce a registration system that would be constantly updated. Such a system works if the population trusts the government because data in registration systems isn’t anonymous.

            And in the last census, the experts point out, many Russians refused to take part or to answer key questions. They would thus be even less likely to provide answers to a comprehensive registration system, and it would therefore continue to suffer with many of the problems Russian censuses do now.

            Moreover, doing away with censuses would require the constitution be amended since it specifies that the country is to carry out a census every ten years. Of course, Putin probably would have little difficulty in pushing through an amendment; but that action would highlight just how often his policies don’t reflect facts but rather problematic guesswork. 

Five Years after Moscow Moved ‘Like a Bulldozer’ against Ingush Demonstrators, Potential for New Protests Remains, Mutsolgov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 26 – This week marks the fifth anniversary of the launch of Moscow’s massive efforts to suppress Ingush protests against an illegal deal which handed over a large swath of the republic’s territory to Chechnya, but despite what Moscow has done, the potential for protest in Ingushetia remains, Magomed Mutsolgov says.

            The Ingush human rights activist says that “the Kremlin’s repressive machine has bulldozed through civil society and independent media. But despite the absurdity of what is happening, civil society across the country has been preserved … and Ingushetia is no exception” (

            Socially conscious citizens and independent public and religious organizations still exist there, although because of repression, they have fewer opportunities to act now than they did in 2018, Mutsolgov says. But it would be wrong to think that the Kremlin has completely suppressed the possibility of new manifestations of popular anger.

            “No one knows,” he says, “when the patience of the population will end and mass protests will begin.”

            In reporting his Mutsolgov’s conclusion, the independent Fortanga news agency provides a summary of what happened since 2018 and the suppression of the Ingush protests in March 2010 and the radicalization of opinion there. For more on these developments, search for “Ingushetia” on  

Kazakhstan Conducts Major Naval Exercise in Northern Caspian Near Russia’s Border

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 26 –Kazakhstan which now has more ships on the Caspian than any other littoral state including Russia ( has just carried out a major training exercise with that Central Asian country’s coast guard and military aviation.

            While most of Kazakhstan’s ships are smaller than those of Russia’s Caspian Flotilla, its largest ones – including missile carriers, mine sweepers and anti-sabotage vessels – all took part in the 1,000-man exercise, highlighting Astana’s readiness to repulse not just poachers but other states ( and

            This action highlights just how far and how fast Kazakhstan has built a navy capable not only of coastal defense but also prepared to defend its sea lanes there against any other state, including Russia’s. (For background, see, and

            Moscow is certain to be nervous about this because Astana is currently in the midst of an effort to build a regional security system involving Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, an arrangement that could make it more difficult for Russia to intervene in the region as it did most recently in Kazakhstan in 2022 under the aegis of Collective Security Treaty Organization. (On those efforts, see

Russians under Putin have Followed the Same Five Steps Germans under Hitler Did but Still Think They can Avoid the Sixth, Some Muscovites Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 26 – Under Hitler, some Muscovites say, Germans in 1932 said they weren’t interested in politics, then from 1933 to 1935 declared life had improved for them, and then in 1936-1938 proclaimed that Germany had risen from its knees and that Austria and the Sudetenland were always ours.

            Next, these Germans in 1939-1941 said everyone wants to attack us but we will be in Moscow in three months, said in 1942-1945 that war is a hard time and that only traitors criticize the leader because he knows what he is doing. But finally, in 1946, everything came crashing down, Germans said, adding they didn’t know because they weren’t interested in politics.

            According to these same Muscovites, under Putin, Russians have followed exactly the same path as far as steps one through five are concerned but somehow believe that they won’t have to suffer the last one, clearly because such people aren’t interested in either history or politics

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

·       The organizer of the terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall is known to the extent of 87.3 percent, the same share of the population Putin received in the recent “elections.”

·       Moscow’s insistence that journalists add a footnote every time they referred to ISIS did nothing to stop the terrorist attack.

·       Russia Today’s Margarita Simonyan and others aren’t motivated by bad ideas; they are only driven by the size of the paychecks they get.

·       After meeting Patriarch Kirill, Pope Francis felt the need to cross himself.

·       The restoration of the death penalty is guaranteed. It is simply a bonus for those who voted to change the constitution the way Putin wanted.

·       The Tajiks arrested for attacking the Crocus City Hall spoke some non-Ukrainian language but after they were worked over, their Ukrainian style embroidered shirts showed through.

·       Russians should be afraid that millions of Tajiks will remember that Russians have ears too.

·       A Russian conversation: “I always listen to the opinions of others if they agree with me.” “But if they don’t?” “I’m not an idiot and don’t listen to such people.” “Yes, you are like Putin.” “No, I am Putin.”

Friday, March 29, 2024

Immigrants to Russia from Central Asia and Caucasus Now Form Such a Large Share of Islamic State Radicals that Russian is ‘the Common Language’ in ISIS, Serenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 25 – Immigrant workers from Central Asia and the Caucasus now form such a large component of recruits to the Islamic State terrorist movement that “Russian is now the common language” used by various terrorist groups, according to Andrey Serenko, head of the Moscow Center for the Study of Islamic Politics.

            The reason, he suggests, is that ISIS presents itself a way out of the difficulties migrants in Russia face; and the number of such recruits is so large relative to other national groups that the adherents of the Islamic State use Russian to communicate (

            Consequently, if xenophobia in the Russian population and repression by the Russian state continue to increase, the number of people from Central Asia and the Caucasus turning to ISIS will only grow, threatening not only Russia but targets in Europe, the United States and elsewhere, Serenko says.

            And because killing as many non-believers as possible has become the center of ISIS ideology and because the leaders of this movement want to achieve their very own “911,” the attacks by these Russian-speaking groups not only in Russia but around the world are likely to become increasingly murderous, Serenko says.

            The Olympics in France later this year is certain to be threatened by such attacks, he suggests; but anywhere that large numbers of people are concentrated for whatever reason could become targets as ISIS seeks the kind of bloodshed that will make its “brand” even more widely known and attractive to radicals.

            This trend, the Russian specialist on Afghanistan says, has been intensifying over the last several years, a time when the world has been distracted by the war in Ukraine. But the latest attack on the Crocus Center in Moscow is a sign that the world is about to enter a new and more frightening period of Islamist terrorism.

Northern Sea Route ‘a Black Hole into Which Russian Economy is Collapsing,’ Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 25 – Vladimir Putin and his regime continue to talk about the great successes of shipping across the Northern Sea Route, but Moscow experts say they are lying and a Norwegian specialist adds that that Arctic route now is “a black hole into which the Russian economy is collapsing,” with money being spent without hope of significant returns.

            These experts, including Mikhail Grigoryev of the Gekon Company and Aleksandr Sokolov of Petrogeko, point out that last year the route carried 25 percent less freight than Moscow had planned and that such a figure would have been even worse had Moscow officials not included short-distance barge traffic (

            Claims to the contrary are “lies,” they say; and the figures for 2024 are likely to be even worse despite promises to the contrary by Putin officials who are happy to get money for the scheme but are up against a variety of obstacles that mean the Northern Sea Route is not going to become the transforming project the Kremlin has promised and expected.

            And the Norwegian expert, Arild Moe, who also participated in the Russian Academy of Sciences along with Grigoryev and Sokolov, said that there were now no prospects that Russia could get the kind of outside investment it would need for any of Moscow’s plans to meet its overly ambitious target figures.

            Not only have ships from China and other countries stopped using the route, the three say; but Russia does not have “either icebreakers or ice-class cargo ships” that would allow Moscow to meet its goals. And the country isn’t going to have them anytime soon as foreign firms are refusing to supply equipment or finished vessels.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Moscow Moves to Strengthen Federal Districts, Another Sign It May Now Move to Abolish Non-Russian Republics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 25 – Shortly after he became president, Vladimir Putin established seven federal districts to supervise the regions and republics within them. (In 2010, he added an eighth one, for the North Caucasus.) Many then saw that as a first step toward the abolishment of the more than 80 oblasts, krays and non-Russian republics.

            But these institutions have receded from public view, with many seeing them not as improving administration but rather getting in the way of other changes that might improve central control ( and

            Moreover, while Putin clearly believed that they would prevent the disintegration of the Russian Federation, others warned that a country with only seven or eight units was more likely to fall apart than one with more than 80 (

            But now after Putin’s “re-election” and the terrorist attack in Moscow, some are suggesting the Kremlin leader will now seek to abolish non-Russian republics and may use the federal districts as a means to that end ( and

            Evidence for that conclusion is provided by a meeting Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin had with the deputy heads of the federal districts and his outlining of a work plan for them for the coming year (

            That plan calls for them to develop action programs for the federal subjects in their respective districts which after Moscow’s approval, they will oversee the implementation of. Such a program strongly suggests that the role of the federal subjects in the regions and republics will now increase, exactly what one might expect if Moscow plans to abolish the latter.

Concentration of Population in Minsk Agglomeration has Reduced Powers of Belarusian Regions

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 25 – Belarus is following a pattern typical of Russia and other former Soviet states: its population and their economic activity is increasingly concentrated in the capital city and the urban agglomeration around it, a trend that has strengthened the central government and weakened the influence of the regions, Anastasiya Gurina says.

            Many analysts suggest that the strengthening of central governments and the weakening of regional ones is the result of the policies of national leaders. There is much truth in that. But the Belarusians and the Market analyst says that deeper demographic and economic factors are at work or at least are assisting the centralizers (

            In 1990, only one Belarusian in six lived in the capital; but today, 38 percent live in the agglomeration, 22 percent in the city itself and 16 percent more in its suburban areas. And together they form 38 percent of the population of the country as a whole. And economically, this center is even more important: 42 percent of all Belarusians work there.

            As a result, the regions have become relatively less important; and any effort to reverse this trend, one that inevitably promotes the centralization not only of economic but political activity, will be extremely difficult, something that many regionalists fail to recognize and take into account in their programs.

            Just changing leaders from those who want to centralize to those who favor federalization and decentralization will unlikely be enough if the underlying demographic and economic situations are not addressed. If they aren’t, centralization is likely to continue not only demographically and economically but politically as well.

Since Putin Came to Power, Moscow’s Military Spending has Risen Seven Times More than Inflation and Become a Major Driver of Price Rises, Analysis Shows

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 25 – Between the end of 1999 when Vladimir Putin came to power and today, Moscow’s spending on the military has increased 65.2 times, a major reason that inflation has officially risen over the same period by 8.94 times and much more according to unofficial accounts over the same period, Ilya Reykh says.

             The Russian commentator says that this means that Russians are paying twice for Putin’s military expansion, first with their taxes which are slated to rise again and then by the higher prices they are compelled to pay for all goods and services (

            Russians are accustomed to Moscow blaming oil prices, Western sanctions, and other factors for inflation; but analysis shows, Reykh says, that the radical increases in military spending over the period of Putin’s rule have played a major role and represents yet another burden he has placed on the Russian population.

            In his article, the Russian economist uses Russian government and foreign government data and shows why many of the most widely accepted explanations for inflation in Russia are at a minimum insufficient and why at the same time military spending in an economy like the Russian one inevitably plays a larger role.

            What that means, he concludes, is that if Putin continues to boost spending on the military, inflation in Russia will rise, putting ever larger burdens on the Russian population, burdens the people will feel but may not blame on military spending unless they pay close attention to the various factors at work.

FSB Focusing on Exile Tatarstan Government – and Bringing It to the Attention of More People

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 25 – Two telegram channels controlled by the FSB, OBKHSS and Political Commander of Tatarstan, are publishing article that seek to discredit the Government of Independent Tatarstan in Exile, Aida Abdrakhmanova, the deputy prime minister of that regime, says.   

            She provides a translation of one of these articles, which, as she notes, represents a tendentious pastiche of publicly available information ( and

About the so-called “government of Tatarstan in exile.”

This structure emerged with the support of Western and Turkish intelligence at the end of 2008. By that time, Tatar separatism in the republic had been fairly suppressed, but its most odious representatives were still active. Among them, the most famous were the odious Tatar writer, Russophobe and extremist Fauziya Bayramova (later twice involved in criminal cases), as well as extremists and criminals, the Kashapov brothers, including the current head of the “government of Tatarstan in exile” Rafis Kashapov.

In December 2008, 25 representatives of the so-called gathered in Naberezhnye Chelny. “Milli Majlis” is an unregistered organization created in early 1992 and claiming to be the Tatar “national parliament”. Among the participants in this gathering were Tatar nationalist extremists known since the 1990s, including Zinnur Agliullin, Talgat Akhmadishin, and Damir Shaikhutdinov. But the main one was Vil Mirzayanov, who connected to the event from the USA via the Internet.

Who is Vil Mirzayanov? He is a chemical scientist who in the early 1990s revealed Russian military secrets to which he had access since Soviet times. He was convicted, but under American pressure, he was released. In 1995, Mirzayanov emigrated to the United States and since then has actively worked under the leadership of the CIA in programs aimed at provoking interethnic splits and separatism in Russia. Being an ethnic Tatar, Mirzayanov became the main conductor of the interests of Tatar separatists in the United States. In 2001–2002, he visited Tatarstan, after which he was accused of espionage and expelled from Russia, barred from entering our country.

The resuscitation of the Milli Majlis in December 2008 was preceded by a meeting between Vil Mirzayanov and Fauzia Bayramova in October of the same year in Germany. It was then that the main decisions of the future gathering were discussed, including the creation of the so-called. “national government”, which, at the instigation of Mirzayanov, included several foreigners with Tatar roots, including journalist H. Kulechyuz (Germany), historian Iklil Kurban, writer Rosa Kurban (Turkey). Among the “ministers” of the “government” was also Bayramova’s daughter, political scientist Zulfiya Kadyr, who has been living abroad for a long time.

The “Government of Tatarstan in Exile” was created following a meeting of the Milli Majlis in December 2008 in Naberezhnye Chelny. Vil Mirzayanov became its chairman. That is, from the very beginning, this “government” intended to be abroad to become the coordinator of provoking Tatar separatism within Russia. This activity was supposed to be financed by the CIA, which Vil Mirzayanov was especially interested in (his salary as a professor at Princeton was no longer enough for him).

Mirzayanov was the head of the “government” until February 2023, after which he was replaced by the even more famous extremist Rafis Kashapov.

Rafis Kashapov, together with his brothers, came to the Tatar national movement from the criminal environment of the 1990s, having made a fortune in the alcohol trade. This money financed numerous nationalist covens, as well as support for Chechen separatists during the time of Aslan Maskhadov. By the way, the sale of alcohol did not prevent the Kashapov brothers from positioning themselves as “devout Muslims.” During his illegal political activities in Russia, Rafis Kashapov was convicted four times on extremist charges. After serving his sentence, he went to Ukraine in 2017, and in 2018 settled in London, where he was captured by one of the British secret intelligence services.

The transfer of the leadership of the “government of Tatarstan in exile” into the hands of Kashapov in 2023 suggests that it is British intelligence that is taking control of the activities of the Tatar separatists, integrating them into the mainstream of supporting the Bandera regime in Ukraine. This means that we should not exclude the threat of sabotage and terrorist activity in the republic, given that there are sympathizers of the Bandera regime in Tatarstan.

Most countries have little time for governments in exile even if they support the positions those governments maintain. But Russia is an exception: it is obsessed with such organizations, likely because of the way in which the Bolshevik emigration came from nowhere at the start of 1917 to rule the country by the end of that year.

But by choosing to go after such institutions via propaganda campaigns, Moscow is doing more to bring the existence and activities of such groups to far larger numbers of people than these groups could hope for on their own.   

Instead of Restoring the Death Penalty, Putin Regime May Start Cutting Off Ears of Criminals, Some Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 25 – Having seen the pictures of the man the FSB arrested for terrorism at Crocus Hall with his ear cut off, some Russians are now speculating that the Kremlin may decide not to restore the death penalty but rather make this alternative form of punishment available for other kinds of crimes as well.

            This is only one of the anecdotes Russians are now telling each other that have been collected by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       The Crocus Hall terrorists did everything they could to get caught, allowing their car to be photographed, going away as a group, and taking public roads to “Ukraine, the homeland of the Tajiks. This all means that Moscow can now safely introduce martial law and declare mass mobilization.

·       Putin says the terrorists were headed toward Ukraine where Ukrainian border guards had opened “a window” for them. That raises the question: doesn’t Russia have any border guards there?

·       After the latest terrorist attack, no one changed their behavior in the slightest. Russians are now used to such things.

·       How is a Tajik sent to Moscow to kill Russians for 500,000 rubles any different from a Russian paid the same amount to go to Ukraine and kill Ukrainians?

·       Russians are no longer interested in hearing about Ukraine’s links with Nazism. So the Kremlin is now saying that “Ukraine is a Nazi Islamist state with a Jewish president.” That should mobilize the patriots again.

·       Putin likes to be known as unpredictable. If he really wants to continue to be viewed as such, why doesn’t he end the war in Ukraine?


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Restoring Death Penalty Won’t Deter Terrorists but Will Further Degrade Russia, Shlosberg Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 24 – The restoration of the death penalty in Russia, something that would require constitutional change, won’t do anything to prevent future terrorist attacks but will further degrade Russian society, leading the state and the population to believe that they can take such actions against anyone they don’t like, Lev Shlosberg says.

            The opposition politician says that calls for the restoration of the death penalty are an inevitable form of populism in the wake of terrorist attacks, but those who make them don’t understand that terrorists ready to sacrifice themselves won’t be deterred and that if the state uses such violence, many in the population will conclude they have the right to do the same.

            That means that these calls may be part of a larger Kremlin effort to do away with the remaining fig leaf of democracy in Russia and turn it into an ever more violent dictatorship, Shlosberg says ( reposted at

            Tragically, he concludes, “there are quite a large number of people in Russia who want to open such gates to hell without completely understanding that these gates will open for everyone without exception.”

Mass Departure of Central Asians from Russia will Destabilize Their Homelands and Then Russia as Well, El Murid Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 24 – Any massive return of Central Asian migrant workers from Russia to their homelands will in the short term destabilize these authoritarian states and then in the longer term the instability they will create in that region will spread back into Russia itself, according to Anatoly Nesmiyan, who blogs under the screen name El Murid.

            The only way the authoritarian regimes in Central Asia have been able to maintain “relative stability”  is for them to have dispatched, mostly to Russia, the young men who helped power the Arab Spring in the Middle East, the blogger says ( reposted at

            But now there is a danger that many of the Central Asians, faced with a rising tide of xenophobia in Russia, will return home and produce exactly the same kind of instability there that such cohorts produced elsewhere. That won’t end the situation, however, El Murid continues.

            Instead, instability in Central Asia will lead to a flow back into Russia of this group of people; and inflamed both by war and their own experiences with xenophobia and repression, this second wave of Central Asians will destabilize Russia itself quite possibly under the banner of radical jihadist ideology.

            What that means, of course, is that those Russians who want Central Asians to go home are buying only a temporary respite from the threat to Russia and may in the process be unwittingly creating an even more dangerous enemy than the one that they now face, El Murid concludes.

Russian Emigres Must Change Their Focus Given Prospect of a Long Putin Dictatorship, Morozov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 25 – Just like earlier Russian emigrations, many who fled Russia in disgust and fear after Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine assumed that they would soon be returning in triumph to a transformed Russia. But now they are having to adjust to the prospect that Putin will remain in power for a long time and they will remain abroad.

            That prospect, Aleksandr Morozov, a political scientist at Prague’s Boris Nemtsov Center, says, is forcing them to revise their own expectations and means that groups that have attracted attention may fade while others gain in importance (

            According to the Prague-based political scientist, Russian society abroad has passed through three stages. The first involved coping with the shock of what the Kremlin had done. The second focused on helping those who had fled. And the third, which continues, is far and away “a very dangerous and complex” one.

            “The war is dragging on and the prospect of a clear end is being lost,” he says. “Many emigres are beginning to think that Russia cannot have any democratic future, although there are optimists who expect that Russia will have a second chance in that direction.” But more and more assume that they must “be prepared for 30 years of Putin’s rule.”

            There is no easy path forward, Morozov says. Some émigré groups will of course continue to try to help Ukraine and the victims of repression in Russia, but others who focus on information war will gain in influence even though the costs of doing so almost certainly “will grow” and the prospects for quick success will recede.

            What seems clear is this, Morozov says. Efforts at cultural resistance will only grow in importance, just as was the case in the final years of the Soviet Union. Émigré political groups like NTS faded in the background, but publishing efforts like Ardis and YMCA Press not only grew but had a far larger impact on the population living under Moscow’s control.

Putin Likely to Exploit Terror Attack to Abolish Non-Russian Republics, Aysin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 23 – Vladimir Putin has always blamed Lenin for creating conditions that led to the disintegration of the USSR by creating the union republics and been hostile to the non-Russian autonomous republics within the Russian Federation which, in his view, may threaten that country’s demise as well, Ruslan Aysin says.

            That explains the Kremlin leader’s continuing attacks on the prerogatives of the non-Russian federal subjects; and now as he has in the past, Putin is likely to exploit the latest terrorist attacks to point to such units as a threat and move to abolish them, the Tatar commentator now living in Turkey says (

            Under Putin, terrorist attacks have always been the occasion for tightening the screws on the population and going after the non-Russian republics. (For a discussion of this phenomenon in the context of the Crocus City attacks, see

            Even before the latest incident, there had been suggestions that Putin would move to abolish the non-Russian republics this year now that he has “won” his latest “election” ( Aysin builds on those and suggests that such a threat is increasingly real.

            “After the terrorist action,” the Tatar commentator says, “suggestions that the federal authorities may launch a campaign for the liquidation of the republics are likely to take on clearer form. The regime needs a new internal enemy” that it can present “as the source of all misfortunes.”

            It has already gelded or completely repressed almost all other centers of oppositions, Aysin continues. “What is left” besides the statehood of the non-Russian republics?  But if Putin does move in this direction, he will face opposition – and it is likely to be far stronger and potentially more fateful than that offered by those Putin ahs repressed up to now.  

            The Kremlin leader recognizes this, and that is why he has moved slowly, salami fashion, against the non-Russians. But perhaps now, given his own “electoral triumph” and the latest terrorist outrage, he may very well feel that the time to destroy the republics has come regardless of the resistance he will certainly face.

Moscow has Never Produced Enough Prosthetics for the Russian People and Both Putin’s War in Ukraine and Western Sanctions have Made This Lag Even Worse

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 23 – Even before Putin launched his war in Ukraine, Russia was not producing enough prosthetic devices to handle domestic needs and was forced to import many of the most advanced bionic kind from the West. Now, the situation has deteriorated as casualties from the war increase and Western sanctions bite.

            Russian medical officials have long complained about the failure of their government to develop the prosthetics industry in Russia, and their complaints have grown since the launch of the expanded invasion of Ukraine (

            But instead of ramping up production and training more personnel for the prosthetics industry, the Kremlin has cut funding for both, thereby creating a situation in which ever more Russians who need such devices will not be able to obtain them anytime soon (

            Now the situation has reached crisis proportions (; and an anecdote is even circulating in Russia suggesting that no one should volunteer to fight until he checks out whether buildings and streets at home are wheelchair accessible (

            And all this is creating a specter that the longer Putin continues his aggression, the more likely it will be that Russian streets will resemble those in the USSR after World War II, with many former soldiers who have lost arms and legs forced to push themselves around on wheels and even beg for help. 

Water Level of Caspian Sea Falling at Accelerating Rate, Restricting Moscow’s Ability to Use Caspian Flotilla against Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 23 – The water level of the Caspian Sea is falling at an accelerating rate, raising the specter not that that inland sea is going to go the way of the Aral anytime soon but rather that lower water levels will complicate the lives of littoral states and may make it far more difficult for Moscow to move its Caspian Flotilla to the Sea of Azov.

            A debate has been going on between Western specialists who see the level of the Caspian continuing to fall throughout the 21st century and Russian ones who argue that the current decline will be reversed in a decade or so (

            But there is no dispute about what is happening right now: The water level of the sea is falling and at record levels. In each of the last three years, that measure has been declining by more than 20 centimeters (eight inches), a falloff that is leading to siltification of shore areas and ports (

            According to the Coordinating Committee for Hydrometeorology of the Caspian Sea, the level of the sea is falling ever more rapidly, primarily as a result of the decline in the amount of water coming from Russia’s Volga River, potentially setting up new conflicts among the littoral states.

            Russian and Kazakhstan ports in the northern portions of the Caspian have been hit hardest, but those in the southern part soon will be. But the impact of falling water levels in the Caspian may hit Russia’s national security in an unexpected way: Moscow has been shifting back and forth its Caspian Flotilla from the Caspian to the Sea of Azov to pressure Ukraine.

            The Russian government has already been forced to turn to China and Iran for help in dredging the Volga. It may now need to have these countries involved in dredging the Caspian Sea as well. But unless it does so, it soon won’t be able to move the larger ships of the Caspian Flotilla out, something that will further reduce its naval presence opposite Ukraine.

            (On the Caspian Flotilla and Moscow’s use of it against Ukraine, see, and

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Putin has Arrested So Many But Can’t Stop a Terrorist Attack, Russians Say after Crocus Action

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 23 – After the Crocus City attack, Russians are pointing out that after 20 years in office, Putin has been able to silence or imprison all opposition politicians, forced out all independent journalists, imprisoned numerous writers for extremism, and even classified LGBT as extremists; but as these events show, he still can’t prevent a real terrorist attack.

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

·       Russia’s real priorities are reflected in the time it took special forces to reach Crocus City and to come to peaceful rallies – 1.5 hours in the first case, and 10 to 15 minutes in the second.

·       Street cameras are good at identifying those who park illegally and issuing fines but they seem powerless against terrorists who come with full armor and then leave quietly.

·       After the last “election” in Russia, the German foreign ministry has decided to call Putin “the former head of a club in Dresden.”

·       I dissent; therefore, I exist.

·       Anyone thinking about volunteering to fight for Putin in Ukraine should first check the infrastructure of his home region to see if it is all wheelchair accessible.

·       Asked what they are expecting after the new six-year sentence the elections have imposed, some Russians say they are “waiting for parole.”

·       Now that Russian scientists have been removed from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, all subatomic particles will be dispersed by riot police.

·       Russians now see they were deceived when the Kremlin told them they’d be loved after they attacked everyone they don’t like.

·       In soulless America, people don’t care how their neighbors live as long as they live better, while in spiritualized Russia, people don’t care how how anyone lives as long as their neighbors have it worse.

·       Before going back into the bunker, a Russian leader says that everyone should hang on and have a nice day.

Kyiv Must Define How It Sees the Future of Russian Volunteers Now Supporting Ukraine, Savvin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 20 – Russian units fighting on the side of Ukraine against Moscow have achieved remarkable success in the field and could easily become “one of the most important and even decisive factors of the struggle against the neo-Soviet Rusisan Federation, Dimitry Savvin says.

            But despite this, they have not received from the Ukrainian government a clear answer as to how Kyiv will react when the goals of the Russian units now fighting side by side with Ukrainian ones begin to diverge, the editor of the Riga-based conservative Harbin portal says (

            In the short term, of course, the interests of such Russian units and the Ukrainian forces they are working with have the same goals: the defeat of Russian forces on Ukrainian territory and the expulsion of the Russians from that territory. But in the longer term, the Russian units likely have broader goals as far as regime change in Russia is concerned.

            And that means, Savvin continues, that the Ukrainian government and those in the West who support it need to ask themselves how far they are prepared to support these Russian aspirations and what they will do if and when those aspirations come into open conflict with the aspirations of Ukraine.

            If Kyiv believes that the Russians now fighting alongside them are not entitled to have a liberation army, then the Russian units will “never be equal allies.” In that event, the Ukrainian authorities need to be very clear about that; and the Russian forces need to understand the limitations that places them under.

            If on the other hand, Savvin says, then Kyiv should “officially declare that and make it legally unambiguous.” If it does that, then this will bring thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of Russians to the banner of the Russian units now fighting for Ukraine against Moscow.


‘Russia is in a State of War’ With the West and that Has Domestic Consequences Peskov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 20 – Putin has so long insisted on calling what he is doing in Ukraine a special military operation and on attacking those who call it a war that the decision of his spokesman Dmitry Peskov to say that “Russia is in a state of war” was viewed through that optic rather than as a description of something even larger.

            In reporting Peskov’s words which first appeared in Argumenty i fakty (, some speculated that the spokesman either would get in trouble or was simply acknowledging what many have known since February 2022 or even earlier.

            At most, Russian commentators were willing to suggest that Peskov was serving notice that Putin’s war in Ukraine was about to escalate. But in reality, the Kremlin spokesman was making a far larger point, one that suggests changes not only in Russian policy toward Ukraine but Moscow’s policies toward Russians.

            The key passage in his remarks is this:“We are at war. Yes, it began as a special military operation, but as soon as the collective West became a participant in this on the side of Ukraine, it became a war for us. I am convinced of this. And everyone should understand this for their own internal mobilization.”

            In this way, Peskov is saying not only that Putin sees Russia as at war not just in Ukraine but with the West but that the Kremlin leader is committed to ensuring that Russians see that as well and draw the necessary conclusions about how they must all mobilize together so as to ensure that their country wins this much larger conflict.


Monday, March 25, 2024

In Russia’s Presidential Elections, ‘Everyone Played Their Assigned Roles,’ Volkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 20 – In the just-completed Russian presidential elections, Denis Volkov says, “everyone played their assigned roles: the loyal majority rallied around the president, opposition candidates mobilized the small protest electorate and boosted turnout, and protest-minded citizens standing in lines relieved some tension and looked at each other.”

            The outcome, the director of the Levada Center continues, was predetermined, at least since Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and generated a patriotic upsurge among many that boosted his standing to astronomic heights (

            Moreover, by ensuring that no real opposition candidates could run but that some did, Volkov says, Putin achieved two things: more votes for himself and greater participation in the election because at least a few of those who did vote for the other candidates wouldn’t have voted at all if there hadn’t been this apparent choice.

            Boosting turnout was the major driver of Kremlin behavior: Putin actively campaigned while his “opponents” did not, and Russian officialdom did everything they could to get people to the polls confident that one way or another Putin would get a high percentage of those who took part.

            According to Volkov, “a certain contribution to the high level of participation was made by the oppositionally inclined minority, the representatives of which stood in lines at polling stations, above all abroad at noon of the last day of the voting.” The real “consolidation” of the opposition took place in lines for Boris Nadezhdin’s failed effort to become a candidate.

            However, the Levada Center sociologist continues, “if one carefully examines today’s supporters of Boris Nadezhdin – and they are on the order of eight to nine percent of the electorate … -- then it turns out that they are completely loyal to the powers that be” and not the opposition some may believe.