Saturday, May 25, 2024

Composition of Russian Government Increasingly Resembles That of Soviet Predecessors with Two Major Exceptions, Mitrokhin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – The composition of the 32 ministers who form the new Russian government increasingly resembles governments of Soviet times with two major exceptions, Nikolay Mitrokhin says. There are far more with backgrounds in the security services, and a fifth of them come from places that are no longer part of the country ruled by Moscow

            The Russian scholar at Bremen University notes that eight of the 32 are likely ethnic Ukrainians although the exact number is uncertain because many ministers conceal their places of birth or ethnic backgrounds ( reposted at

            Four of these eight were born in Ukraine, two more of the other 24 were born in Georgia, and one in Belarus, Mitrokhin says. And that means that roughly a fifth were born in former Soviet republics that are now independent countries. There are also more ministers from Tatarstan but not from other non-Russian groups either inside or outside Russia.

            The most striking difference between the Russian ministers now and their Soviet predecessors is “the sharp increase in the share of the descendants of staffers of the security services.” In Soviet times, the government tried to keep such people out of this particular part of the regime.

Putin’s Visit to Harbin Speaks Volumes about Growing Chinese Self-Confidence

Paul Goble

              Staunton, May 20 – During his time in China, Vladimir Putin for the first time visited Harbin, a city in northeastern China near the Russian border that was founded by the Russian Empire in 1898 to house the headquarters of the Russian-owned Chinese Eastern Railroad and became an important center of the Russian emigration after the Bolshevik revolution.

              Because of these Russian ties and because the Russians in the city enjoyed extraterritorial status until 1920, Ivan Zuyenko, a China specialist at Moscow’s MGIMO says, Beijing did not like recalling let alone highlighting this past (

              “But in recent years, the situation has sharply changed,” the Russian scholar says. And now, “Harbin considers itself to be a cosmopolitan city for which the interrelationship of Russian and Chinese civilizations serves as a key element of identity” and even plays up its Russian past to attract tourists and visitors like Putin.

              The Kremlin leader’s stay in Harbin was in complete conformity with all of that, Zuyenko says. Putin laid flowers on the war memorial to Soviet soldiers who died fighting the Japanese during World War II, but he then visited and made a gift to the Orthodox Church of the Intercession, the only operational Orthodox church there (

              According to the MGIMO researcher, the Chinese side had originally proposed that Putin visit the Sofia Cathedral, the largest of the Russian churches there but now a museum and symbol of the city. Putin, however, preferred that he go to a working church and so he visited the Church of the Intercession instead.

              In the course of his visit, Putin met with students and staff of the Harbin Polytechnic and took part in the opening of the Russian-Chines EXPO and then spent the night at a villa on the banks of the Sungari River which was frequently celebrated in the works of Russian émigré writers.

              Putin is not the first Russian president to come to Harbin. Yeltsin visited in 1997; but the first Russian leader’s visit was not a great success. Under the weather and possibly drunk, Putin kept the small group of survivors of the first Russian emigration there waiting for more than an hour and then met wit them for only about 90 seconds (

              What Zuyenko did not mention in his article about Putin’s visit is the way in which Chinese attitudes about a Russian outpost on Chinese territory contrast so sharply with Muscovite ones about any foreign past on Russian territory be it in Kaliningrad or the Russian Far East or elsewhere.

              Unlike Moscow, China is now sufficiently self-confident that it is prepared to call attention to that past rather than see it as something that has to be minimized less it threaten Beijing now or in the future, a completely different attitude that many in the Russian capital in Putin’s time have.    

Sakha Portal Skeptical about New Cooperation Accord with China’s Jiangxi Province

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – One of the almost inevitable sidebars of any visit by a Russian leader abroad is the signing of cooperation agreements between RF regions and the regions of the other countries, something that allows the Moscow media to suggest that more has been achieved than may in fact be the case and that both countries view as a means to present their interests later.

            Consequently, it is no surprise that during Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing, the leaders of the Sakha Republic in the Russian Federation and of the Jiangxi Province in China signed such an agreement; but China’s less than positive record in dealing with Sakha has left commentators there skeptical about what this one means.

            Last year, China promised to build new infrastructure in Sakha but then dragged its feet (;  and Chinese experts expressed skepticism that Sakha could achieve greater local control anytime soon (

            Now, Sakha commentators have returned the favor: The Yakutia Future portal said that the new agreement sounds nice but that it is far from clear there is anything much in it for Sakha and its people (

‘Fearing to Repeat Gorbachev’s “Mistakes,” Putin Regime is Repeating Those of Nicholas II,’ Nikulin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – Fearing of repeating what the Kremlin views as “the mistakes of Gorbachev,” Putin and his team are making the mistakes of the last tsar, Nicholas II, increasing repression and engaging in foreign wars without any clear end that are creating a genuinely revolutionary situation, Andrey Nikulin says.

            Indeed, the Russian blogger says, Putin is repeating “step by step the erroneous actions of the last years of the Romanov empire,” angering the population and leading politically conscious people to give up on existing political possibilities and considering revolutionary attitudes ( reposted at

            Nikulin says he really doesn’t prefer such “a revolutionary option [as] it is obvious that an evolutionary, gradual and calm path is better for both a tired and exhausted country and its inhabitant. But that is precisely the direction that Russia is being pushed” by “blind madmen” in the Kremlin.

If Russia is to De-Imperialize, Predominantly Russian Regions Must Play a Decisive Role, Buryat Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – Because the population of the overwhelmingly ethnic Russian oblasts and krays forms such a large percentage of the total, these regions will play “a decisive role” if the country is to de-imperialize, according to Aleksandr Garmazhapova, the president of the Free Buryatia Foundation.

            The activist who now lives in emigration says that there is the potential for this because “many residents of Kaliningrad in the far West and Khabarovsk in the Far East are dissatisfied with Moscow’s imperial policy which is transforming their regions into colonies without any rights” ( reposted in Russian at

            Speaking on a panel at the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn, she adds that “it is not completely correct” to speak about ethnic Russians as “’an imperial ethnos.’” Moscow has been able to buy off many representatives of non-Russian groups by giving them the feeling that they belong to “’a great country.’”

            That is the primary explanation why “many of them willingly go to fight in Ukraine,” especially given that “the empire is still sufficiently wealthy that it can pay them amounts of money which they would never be able to earn in peacetime in their own republic, Garmazhapova continues.

            She and other participants in the panel – including Dmitry Dubrovsky from Prague, Borislav Bereza from Ukraine, and Anton Shekhovtsov from Vienna – agreed that “the current war of Russia against Ukraine is not just the work of Putin personally but reflects the centuries’ long imperial tradition” of Russia.

            Dubrovsky for his part suggested what the Moscow regime was engaged in a kind of “necropolitics,” that is, “a war of the dead against the living and of the past against the future. Shekhovtsov said he did not see any prospects for he disintegration of Russia anytime soon but did not address the likelihood a new Putin would emerge if Russia remained in one piece.

Among Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s Favorite Books is Aksyonov’s ‘Island of Crimea’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – Every year, the Catalonian newspaper La Vanguardia marks the Day of the Book with a listing of the favorite books of various leaders. This year, for the first time, it includes a listing of the four favorite books of Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s long-serving foreign minister.

            Lavrov’s favorites, it reports, are Nikolay Gogol’s Taras Bulba, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White Guard and Vasily Aksyonov’s The Island of Crimea (

            New Times columnist Andrey Kolesnikov in his latest article discusses what likely led Lavrov to identify these books rather than any others as his favorite and suggests what that says about the minister’s views concerning Russia and appropriate service to Russia’s rulers (

            Taras Bulba, the columnist says, is “an ideologically correct choice” given that the novel presents Russians and Ukraine as a single whole, exactly what Lavrov and his bosses believe. Crime and Punishment is a Russian classic from school days. And The White Guard is a brutal portrayal of chaos in Ukraine of a century ago.

            Lavrov’s choice of Island of Crimea is at one level somewhat strange, Kolesnikov suggests, because the novel posits that the anti-Bolshevik Whites hold out on Crimea much as the Kuomintang did on Taiwan against the Chinese Communist advance. But at another level, Aksyonov’s novel is completely understandable.

            One of its heroes, Marlen Kuzenkov, is ready to “carry out any order from his superiors” but dresses like an English gentleman, a combination that perfectly corresponds to Lavrov’s approach.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Moscow Set to Slash Number of Company Towns, Ending Subsidies to Places Now So Classified

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 18 – Before the covid pandemic, Russian officials indicated that they believed that the number of places they were then classifying as company towns (monogorody) – 312 -- far exceeded the number that should be put in that category and thus eligible for special subsidies.

            At that time, Moscow officials said they believed that only about half of the places in that list where one industry is responsible for 20 percent of more of employment should remain so classified and thus eligible for subsidies. But the pandemic and then the start of Putin’s enlarged war in Ukraine put plans to revisit this issue (

            Now, Kommersant is reporting, the economics ministry plans to survey these places and drop those that no longer belong on this list and thus reduce their number. The paper notes, however, that the ministry has not specified what the new basis for classification will be (

            But how much of a cut there will be in the number, something that will allow Moscow both to reduce overall spending on such places as well as concentrate the remaining resources on those still on the list is uncertain. But one economics ministry official said recently that he believes only 120 cities should be classified as company towns.

            It is unlikely that economic development has been sufficient to justify dropping almost 200 cities from a category of places that have faced hard times since the end of the Soviet Union. But it is certain that Putin will celebrate such a drop as a triumph of his policies and that his assessment will be uncritically repeated by many both in Russia and abroad.

            In reality, as many studies show, Russia’s company towns overwhelmingly remain part of the dying rust belt and are likely to continue to decay and remain a source of social and even political problems for the Kremlin even if Moscow decides to use a statistical sleight of hand to make itself look better.

For background on company towns and their travails, see,,,, and

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Putin’s Newspeak a Ritualized Language that Keeps Russians from Thinking, Arkhipova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 18 – What political analysts commonly call newspeak is in fact a “formative” language that provides its audience with meaningless phrases so that people will not think about what they are hearing but simply accept what they are hearing, according to Moscow anthropologist Aleksandra Arkhipova.

            She argues that “the task of a ‘formative’ language is that those to whom it is addressed don’t decode anything but remain within the encoding that the originator provides.” The latter gives its audience “meaningless phrases so that those in the audience don’t think about them” ( reposted at

            In this way, Arkhipova continues, “there is no content in newspeak; but ther eis a ritual component.” As an example of this, she gives a recent Russian obituary which specified that “he died heroically at the cost of his life as a result of a missile attack,” a group of words that says little but unites speaker and audience.

            This is very different from Aesopian language, the anthropologist points out. Those who use it assume that their audiences understand everything and will immediately decode what they say while those who use the formative language of newspeak assume that their audiences understand nothing and will simply accept what they are told.

Russian Supreme Court Opens the Way for ‘Ex Post Facto’ Convictions in Extremism Cases

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 18 – The Russian constitution bans ex post facto convictions, that is, it specifies that no one can be convicted of a crime that was not a crime at the time of the action ( But now Russia’s Supreme Court has ruled that restriction doesn’t apply in extremism cases (

            As a result, those in the Russian Federation who follow the law cannot be sure that their actions will not be declared illegal after the fact, a change that opens the way for the state to bring charges against anyone for acting according to the law if it subsequently changes the law (

            The court held that the reason for this exception to the constitutional ban on ex post facto punishment is because if someone posts materials on a website or in social media and those materials remain there even for years afterwards, the state has a legitimate interest in punishing those who fail to take them down and thus can punish offenders.

            This ruling represents a dangerous expansion in state powers at the expense of individual rights even if it is limited to extremism cases and the use of the Internet. But there is a danger that by arguing that the consequences of other actions extend in time as well and thus the constitutional ban on ex post facto laws might be dispensed with more broadly.

            Should that happen, one of the most important legal protections law-abiding Russian citizens have had since 1993 will be gutted; and the state at least potentially will be able to go after anyone for any action even if that action was entirely legal in Russia at the time when it occurred.

Under Guise of ‘Joint Development,’ Putin Sets the Stage for Transferring Russian Land to China, Alksnis Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 17 – At his recent summit meeting with Chinese leaders, Vladimir Putin signed an agreement calling for “the joint development” of disputed islands in the Ussuri River near Khabarovsk. Russian nationalist commentator Viktor Alksnis says this action will in fact lead to the transfer of sovereignty over these islands to China.

            Yevgeny Ivanov, a Nakanune journalist, points out that controversy about the Russian-Chinese border extends back to 1860. In that year, the two countries signed a treaty specifying that the Russian-Chinese border “ran along the southern shore of the Amur and Ussuri rivers” (

            But China views that accord as one of the unequal treaties it was compelled to sign; and since 1991, it has pressed for their revision. In that year, Moscow and Beijing agreed that the border ran in the center of the flow of the rivers, thus transferring some islands, including Damansky where a military clash occurred in 1969, to China.

            Beijing still objected, and in 2004 and 2008, Moscow signed two further agreements which handed over to China one whole island and part of another. Finally, in 2023, the two governments agreed to come up with a joint formula for  deciding precisely where the state border between them passed.

            Beijing continued to insist that the islands belonged to China and even published a map showing them as Chinese. Moscow objected to the map but said that the two countries did not have any differences on the border (

            But that clearly was not the case; and during Putin’s most recent visit to China, the Russian side signed an agreement with Beijing on “the principles of the joint development” of border areas. Russian officials suggested that this agreement ends any dispute, but Viktor Alksnis, a nationalist commentator, sees things differently.

            He argues that Russia, being isolated internationally, has little choice but to make concessions to China to keep Beijing in its corner and that talk about “joint development” is simply a ruse that covers what will be the eventual transfer of full sovereignty over the islands in the Ussuri and Amur to China.



Making Putin’s Healthcare Optimization Worse, 20 Percent of Medical Facilities in Russian Regions Don’t Have Even One Doctor

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 10 – Vladimir Putin’s healthcare optimization program has dramatically reduced the number of medical facilities in Russia’s regions, but the situation with those that remain is increasingly critical given that one in every five of these medical “points” at present lacks a doctor.

            This problem has arisen because many regions can’t provide adequate incomes for doctors or the opportunity for them to engage in private practice and because the costs of medical training have risen to the point that those who in rural areas can’t recoup this expense (

            But it also reflects a shortage in the number of doctors in Russia today. The government admits that there are 35,000 too few doctors but most medical experts say that want ads for doctors suggest that the real number is far larger. And a recent poll found that four in ten Russians say they haven’t been able to see a doctors when they need to.

            That means in turn that the doctor shortage is now so large that it is hitting urban residents as well. But the real cost of this shortage is that Russians now see doctors less often than they should and that when they finally travel often hundreds of kilometers to do so, they are sicker and less likely to be cured than would otherwise be the case.

            Moscow has responded with a “rural doctor” program that offers enormous subsidies to doctors who are willing to move to rural areas, but it has had mixed results. Some who take advantage of the money which is paid only to get people to agree to move leave as soon as they can because they do not want to live in impoverished rural areas.


Moscow No Longer Interested in Having Kaliningrad Serve as Russia’s Showcase for the West, Kolchin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 18 – Putin’s appointment of Aleksey Besprozvanny as governor of Kaliningrad shows that Moscow “is no longer interested in having that region play the role of a showcase for Russia in the West,” a role that it played in Soviet times and until recently in post-Soviet times as well, Pyotr Kolchin says.

            The St. Petersburg political scientist says that Moscow expects the new governor to promote the kind of economic development in the noncontiguous region that will increase its integration with the rest of the Russian Federation and to more actively support security interests there (

            Given Besprozvanny’s career in Moscow, Kolchin says, it is likely he will do just that; and that he will not seek to make Kaliningrad into a showcase for Moscow or promote ties with neighboring countries. Earlier governors also had worked in Moscow but many of them became local patriots. Bezprozvanny seems less likely to make any such transition.

Moscow’s Deportation and Denigration of Crimean Tatars Continues, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 18 – Eighty years ago, on May 18, 1944, Stalin ordered the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars from their homeland and the suppression of the Crimean autonomous republic as well. Today, Putin is continuing both policies albeit in a more “quiet” way than his predecessor did, Kharun Sidorov says.

            Today, people around the world recall Stalin’s crimes, the Prague-based specialist on nationality policy says; but they typically have focused less attention on what Putin has been doing with regard to the Crimean Tatars since his Anschluss of their land in 2014 (

            After the occupation, Putin issued a decree which spoke about the rehabilitation of ethnic minorities in Crimea but listed the Crimean Tatars fourth in a list of five, all except for them are true diasporas as they have states elsewhere. And the occupation authorities specified that rehabilitation was to be for individuals rather than nations, Sidorov says.

            Just what the Crimean Tatars now face under Russian occupation is clear if one compares Ukrainian and Russian laws governing ethnic minorities in Ukraine like the Crimean Tatars. Ukrainian law gives the Crimean Tatars special rights as an indigenous people, but Russian law does not.

            Indeed, Sidorov argues, Ukraine’s adoption of a law on indigenous peoples “became one of its ideological challenges to the Kremlin” and served as one of the reasons Putin invaded Ukraine lest Ukraine’s recognition of the special status of the Crimean Tatars be extended to indigenous peoples within the Russian Federation.

            But the Putin regime has followed its Stalinist model regarding the Crimean Tatars in another way: its minions have suppressed Crimean Tatar self-government and some of them have even called for the suppression of the name Crimea because in the words of one Russian official, “Crimea is a Crimean Tatar name.”

            These ideological positions have practical effects, Sidorov says. Since 2014, 50,000 Crimean Tatars have had to flee their homeland not only because of repression but because of the influx of approximately 500,000 ethnic Russians. Consequently, on the 80th anniversary of Stalin’s actions, the deportation continues, yet another reason why the occupation must be ended.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Some Russian Museums Not Changing Exhibits Lest They Be Forced to Carry Propaganda

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – Putin’s expanded war in Ukraine has hit museums in the Russian Federation hard. Long-planned foreign exhibits have been cancelled, and the Kremlin has insisted that Russian museums carry more propaganda about the war. But some curators have come up with a strategy to resist, although it is costing them dearly as well.

            That strategy is to avoid changing existing exhibits because official pressure to introduce propaganda messages is greatest at a time when an exhibit ends and another must replace it. By extending current exhibitions, museums can avoid having propaganda forced upon them – but only at the cost of Soviet-style stagnation when museums seldom changed their exhibits.

            In a new article for The Insider, journalist Irina Kordonskaya surveys how various museums are falling victim to Kremlin pressure while others continue to resist, often using such delaying tactics, and how this combination is changing the face of museum life in the Russian Federation and leading to a new stagnation in the museum life (

            In government museums, censorship is spreading rapidly; but pressure on other museums continues to grow. And it is even possible that the strategy of not changing exhibits in order not to be forced to insert propaganda may prompt the Kremlin to adopt new more invasive ways of forcing the museums to become its propaganda vehicles.

Environmental Issues May Soon Affect Armenian-Azerbaijani Border Dispute

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – Armenian and Azerbaijani officials have been making progress in the delimitation of the state border between them, despite the difficulties left over from Soviet times and the opposition of many in Armenians to any concession of territories Yerevan has controlled to Azerbaijan.

            But even if the two countries do agree on a line, that will not be the end of border questions because the activities of one on its side of the border involving the exploitation of natural resources or the flow of transborder rivers will affect the other and lead to new conflicts if they can’t reach agreement on the handling of such things and compensation for losses.

            The publication in Baku of a new map showing the way in which Yerevan has concentrated extractive industries along the Azerbaijani border and made use of water that would otherwise have flowed into Azerbaijan suggests that disputes about these issues will soon take center stage in talks between Baku and Yerevan.

            Prepared by Azerbaijani cartographer Mugabil Bayramov and released by the Cartographers of Azerbaijan in Azerbaijani, English and Armenian, the map underscores just how explosive these issues are likely to become (

            According to Vestnik Kavkaza, the map clearly shows that “the authorities of Armenia have intentionally concentrated mining operations along the transborder rivers flowing into Azerbaijani territory and thus damaged the environment of the neighboring country by the contamination of those waters.”

            The internet outlet goes on to say that “this is particularly the case on the border of the Eastern Zengezur economic district of Azerbaijan,” already a sensitive area because of Azerbaijani interest in restoring transportation and communication links to Nakhichevan, the non-contiguous portion of the country separated by Armenia’s Syunik Oblast.

            Although Azerbaijani experts doubt that serious progress can be made regarding both Armenian compensation for environmental damage to Azerbaijan or a change in Armenian policy regarding the border region until after a peace treaty is concluded, their words suggest that this issue could easily delay the signing of any treaty even if the border itself is delimited.

Murder Rate in Russia Highest in Europe and Far Higher than Moscow Admits or Reports, ‘To Be Precise’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – The number of murders per 100,000 population is far higher in Russia than it is elsewhere in Europe, Anastasiya Kokourova and Yegor Shkurko say. That is true if one relies only on official statistics, but these statistics for various reasons seriously understate just how many murders Russians are carrying out.

            The problems begin, the To Be Precise investigators say, with the law defining murder that is used by Moscow to report how many murders have taken place (

            That law defines as murder only deaths that are the result of premeditated actions. When someone dies after being beaten by another either as a result of alcohol or drug consumption or simply rage, those actions will be tried under other articles of the criminal code and not counted as murders.

            Other factors reducing the number of murders include cases when the police can’t establish what happened and coroners are not permitted to say that physical harm they uncover was caused by someone, when the acts occur within the family and the police don’t get involved, and when officials engage in outright falsification of the data to make themselves look good

            As a result. Kokourova and Shkuro say, the number of murders committed in the Russian Federation each year is many times larger than the eight to ten thousand Moscow likes to claim and reports to international bodies like the UN. Still worse, that number is rising, not falling, as officials typically claim.

            In their article, the two journalists report many intriguing statistics; but perhaps the most interesting is this: Murder rates for Russia as a whole are high, but “Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the republics of the North Caucasus are no more dangerous than European countries with the number of murders there not exceeding 2.5 per 100,000” (

By Making Almost Everything a Question of Security, Putin has Opened the Way to Dictatorship and War, Kazantsev-Vaisman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – Since coming to office in 2000, Vladimir Putin has made almost everything a question of national security and used that to destroy all the institutions that had restrained him and opened the way to dictatorship and war, according to Andrey Kazantsev-Waisman.

            The Russian political scientist who lives in Israel draws on the work of British scholar Barry Buzan and his Danish colleague Ole Wæver in the 1990s on what they called “the securitization” of politics (

            Kazantsev-Waisman argues that “securitization is the favorite method of authoritarian regimes” because “with its help, they neutralize the democratic and legal limitations which had existed in societies” justifying such steps because of what they are able to convince many are existential threats to the country.

            Putin has proceeded further in this direction than most, presenting first Chechnya and then all the federal subjects as threatening to disintegrate the country unless Moscow restored control, then presenting the increasing independence of former Soviet states as the same, and finally blaming the West as such.

            Two factors worked in Putin’s favor, the political scientist says: high oil prices which gave him the resources to act without regard to others and a parallel securitization of American policy after September 11, a development that limited Western criticism and in some cases brought him Western understanding and support.

            But this approach can prove self-destructive, Kazantsev-Waisman says. “The more extraordinary measures are taken in its name, the greater the fears in society.” As a result, “the state of total security in a paradoxical way is transformed into a state of total insecurity” with all political action necessarily and in an ever intensifying way becoming “a special operation.”


Saturday, May 18, 2024

Putin will Never Name a Successor, El Murid Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – Commentators have been examining the recent rash of appointments to the government and the Presidential Administration for an indication as to who is likely to emerge as Putin’s successor. But as long as Putin is alive, Anatoly Nesmiyan who blogs under the screen name El Murid says, the Kremlin leader will never name anyone as his successor.

            Putin knows better than anyone else that were he to do so, an alternative power center would emerge and he would be significantly weakened and possibly overthrown, El Murid says. He got burned with Dmitry Medvedev a decade ago and will not risk anything similar again ( reposted at

            Only after Putin’s death will there be any open competition for power, and then, the commentator continues, “everything will happen not as planned but in a form full of content, up to and including full-fledged combat operations.” But until then, the appearance of competition will remain just that, a specter that will dissolve whenever it suits Putin.

            According to El Murid, “the Byzantine model of governance, which has taken shape in Russia as the autocratic despotism of one person, completely excludes the transfer of any real power while the despot is still alive.” That is because if he begins to lose power, “no one will give even a kopeck for his life and position” – and he knows that “better than anyone.”

Moscow-Beijing Alliance Directed Not Only Against the West but Against Russia East of the Urals, ‘Region.Expert’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – Not surprisingly, commentators have focused on the ways in which Moscow’s burgeoning alliance with China is directed against the West; but they should also focus on the fact that this “alliance of dictators” is in fact directed “against the interests of the residents of the Far Eastern regions of the Russian Federation,” the Region.Expert portal says.

            According to the Tallinn-based regionalist site, “the Far East for a long time has been converted by Moscow into a raw material colony for ‘friendly’ China but China not only pays for raw materials from there but helps fill the treasury of the Russian government in Moscow at the region’s expense (

            And in order to support China’s goals in Russian areas east of the Urals, Moscow has suppressed the only avenues people there had to oppose them. Thus, in 2021, 90 percent of Khabarovsk voters rejected a Beijing plan to build a chemical plant in their region (

            But Moscow to curry favor with China and also to extend its authoritarian control responded by liquidating local self-administration and the right of local communities to hold referenda on plans like the Chinese. As a result, Beijing can build and Moscow can profit from the construction of such plants without local people being able to block such projects.

Moscow Should Draw on History of the Komintern to Overthrow Existing World Order, Naryshkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – Sergey Naryshkin, head of the SVR, says that Russia should draw on the experience of the Communist International (Komintern), a Soviet-led union of communist parties between 1919 and 1943, to unite and strengthen all those in favor of overthrowing the existing world order that was created and remains dominated by Western countries.

            Speaking to a roundtable devoted to the history of the Komintern, the Russian spy chief says that “today, when Russia stands at the avant-garde of the global change in the world order, extremely useful practical lessons can be derived from the experience of the Communist International” (

            Naryshkin added that memories of the Komintern are “carefully preserved” in the countries of the former Soviet bloc and throughout the world because of that organization’s leadership in the fight against Nazism, against which that organization played an important role in gathering intelligence revealing Hitler’s true aims.

            Created by Lenin as an organization linking together the world’s communist parties, the Komintern was formally abolished in May 1943 at the insistence of Moscow’s Western allies in the anti-Hitler coalition. But in shuttering the group, Moscow did not give up its control over the communist movement around the world.

            How far Moscow could go in this direction or even if it would want to are open questions given that while traditionalists around the world share some values, many of their traditions set them at odds, something very different from the originally monolithic world communist movement of the 1920s and 1930s.

            But the very fact that Naryshkin is raising this possibility shows just how influential those who believe Moscow must recast its current struggle from being a fight between Russia and the West into one between supporters of traditionalism and backers of globalism have become (

            And his words also suggest that Moscow at least would likely view its allies in such a cause to be potential espionage assets, something that would make a revived Komintern attractive to a spy chief like Naryshkin but would likely reduce the attractiveness of such an idea both in the Kremlin and among traditionalists elsewhere. 

Entire History of Post-Soviet Russia a Contest between ‘Foxes’ and ‘Wolves,’ Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 14 – Ever fewer people are inclined to see the Putin years as a clear break from the Yeltsin ones, and now Igor Eidman adds a new dimension to that understanding by suggesting that post-Soviet politics has always been a contest between what he calls “the foxes” and “the wolves.”

            The Russian commentator takes as his framework the ideas of Italian sociologist Vilfredo Pareto who spoke about politics being a struggle between foxes and lions; but Eidman says he doesn’t like dignifying Russia’s siloviki by calling them lions and so labels them “wolves” instead (

            The wolves, in his understanding, include not only the siloviki but also the pseudo-liberal bureaucracy and favor the use of brute force to achieve their goals, while the foxes are those in the political establishment who instead favor the use of manipulation through propaganda and other means.

            “In the course of the struggle for resources and political influence, now ‘the foxes’ have forced ‘the wolves’ to work for them, and now ‘the wolves’ have put ‘the foxes’ under their control.” Both have the same strategic goals and thus a basis for cooperation: “to preserve their power and property against the claims of the unprivileged majority of the population.”

            Eidman says that in 1993, the wolves “became irreplaceable” to the survival of the regime; but in 1996, the foxes took the upper hand in securing Yeltsin’s reelection. Then, in 1998, the solves took their revenge, only to form “a temporary union” with the foxes and advance Putin, with a foot in both camps, to power.

            Since that time, the wolves have become increasingly dominant, although the foxes raised their heads again in the political crisis of 2011-2012. But by 2014, with the Crimean Anschluss, “the power of ‘the wolves became absolute,” although there are still some foxes around who continue to play a role as servants of the wolves.

            In presenting this description of post-Soviet Russian politics, Eidman also offers what he calls a discussion of the origins of Putinism in the 1990s “through the prism of ‘a class approach” arguing that what happened then and what is being maintained now was the seizure of resources by former Soviet officials rather than genuine market reforms.

            This happened because, Eidman argues, “the bureaucracy could not but use the opportunity to convert power into property,” something they were effectively able to do because of “the betrayal committed by the leadership of the democratic movement which had brought Yeltsin to power.”

            The leaders of that movement should be given “a medal ‘for the seizure of property for the bureaucracy,” the Russian commentator says. Because of their enormous popularity earlier, they were able to exploit the trust of the Soviet and then Russian citizenry even as they formed an alliance with the Soviet nomenklatura.

Russian Attitudes toward Ukrainians, Central Asian Migrants, and Jews have Deteriorated over Last Two Years, Levada Center Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 14 – After improving for most of the last two decades, Russian attitudes toward Ukrainians, Central Asian migrant workers and Jews have deteriorated over the last two years as a result of the war in Ukraine, the involvement of Central Asians in terrorist actions, and the war in the Middle East, the Levada Center reports.

            Over the same period, the polling agency says, the attitudes of residents of the Russian Federation toward Chechens, the Chinese, and Africans have improved (

            “On the whole,” the center says, “the level of ethnophobia remains quite high,” if one makes that conclusion on the basis of Russian answers to questions about what ethnic groups the respondent would like to see restricted from entering Russia or deported although it is lower than it was in 2019 and earlier.

            Sixty-nine percent of Russians favor having the government limit the influx of members of at least one ethnic group into their country, but 24 percent disagree and say that the government should work to assimilate such people so that they can work for the benefit of the Russian Federation.

            At the same time, 89 percent of Russians say that “they ‘rarely’ or ‘never or practically never’ feel hostility to themselves from people of other nationalities;” and an equal percentage say they don’t feel hostility to people of other nationalities, “the lowest level of hostility since 2002” and a dramatic fall from highs in 2010-2013.

            “More than half of those queried (58 percent) say that ‘bloody conflicts on a nationality basis’ in our country are improbable, somewhat down” from earlier. Only in 2011 and 2013 did the number who thought such clashes were probable exceed the share who thought that they were not.