Friday, May 31, 2024

Moscow Patriarchate’s Stress on Russian Martyrdom Protecting Kremlin Against Questions about Combat Losses, Klimenko Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church not only support the Kremlin in its aggressive war but by their stress on the role of martyrdom in Russian history play an essential role in defending Vladimir Putin and the Russian political elite from troubling questions about the scale of losses war involves. Yekatrina Klimenko says.

            The Russian and Polish-trained specialist on Russian culture argues that this role of the church helps to explain both why the Kremlin relies on the Moscow Patriarchate and why Russia’s political leaders so often talk about martyrdom (

            This special role of the ROC MP emerged from a somewhat unexpected source: the church’s focus in the 1990s on the memory of Soviet repressions, a focus it shared with Memorial. But Klimenko says, the ROC’s “interpretation of the repressions was strikingly different than Memorial’s.”

            Initially, the Moscow Patriarchate paid primary attention to clergy and lay people who suffered for their faith; but over time, the church and Patriarch Kirill in particular expanded the category of martyrdom to include all those who had suffered for the country in war and peace and thus set the stage for the revival of Russia as a great state.

            “While martyrdom is essentially a religious concept, it was secularized in the 20th century” in many places. As a result, many came to believe that “very much like religions, nations too have their martyrs,” Klimenko continues. And that is extremely useful for political elites.

            Such an expansion of martyrdom is extremely powerful tool because “it converts defedat into victory and trauma intro triumph and renders stories of national disasters and catastrophes into ones of deliverance and empowerment … [with even the worst losses becoming] something to be respected if not admired and invested with sense.”

            In Russia’s case, “the 1917 revolution and the 1945 victory are tied together, with the revolution standing for since, the war, the atonement for this since, and victory manifesting the glory of salvation.” Such a tale, she says, “requires martyrs which is precisely who those who die in war are, according to this interpretation.”

            Klimenko continues: “The differences between religious martyrdom and death in war are numerous … but Patriarch Kirill plays down these differences in his sermons by portraying those who died in the Great Patriotic War quite literally as martyrs, albeit martyrs of patriotism rather than of Orthodox Christianity,” something the church leader has extended to the war in Ukraine.

            “In his sermons, the cultural specialist says, “Patriarch Kirill does not gloss over the suffering” in war. Instead, “he emphasizes it, almost voluptuously because the suffering pays. To martyrs, suffering bring salvation; to soldiers, it brings victory. Hence, the more suffering, the grander the triumph.”

            By making any deaths and losses in war a question of martyrdom, Klimenko concludes, the ROC MP protects the Kremlin from unwelcome questions about how much a conflict is costing because its approach “resolves the contradiction between trauma and triumph by transforming the former into the latter.”


Norwegian Security Expert Alarmed by Moscow’s Increasing Focus on Svalbard Archipelago

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – Karen-Anne Eggen, a researcher at Norway’s Higher School of the Armed Forces says that Moscow’s recent statements about and actions around the Svalbard Archipelago suggest that Russian plans to make moves against that Norwegian territory a central part of its new front in the North.

            Her article, “Norway: Spitsbergen, an Arctic Warning about the Next Line of the Front,” is discussed and criticized by Russia’s Regnum news agency ( But the background and basis for her conclusion is discussed in detail by the author of these lines at

            My key conclusions there were the following:

  • Moscow’s first direct attack on a NATO country may come against Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, a possibility that continues to divide NATO on whether a Russian move there would require an Article 5 response.
  • Moscow’s interest in Svalbard, a demilitarized region, has grown because of Norway’s imposition of sanctions, global warming, and Russian concern about defending the western entrance to the Northern Sea Route.
  • Russian interest in the area has intensified because China has joined Russia in using Svalbard for research, access to Svalbard’s coal has become more important, and a vast privately owned parcel of land is now for sale. 


Chinese Plans to Develop Mines in Moscow Oblast Likely to Contaminate Environment and Spark Russian Protests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – China has been interested in developing mines and mineral processing plans in Moscow Oblast since the 1950s, but Soviet and then Russian fears that such activities will contaminate the environment and spark the kind of ecological protests found elsewhere in the country have blocked Chinese efforts.

            Now, however, given the Kremlin’s “turn to the east,” Moscow Oblast with the blessing of the Kremlin is opening up Moscow Oblast’s natural resources reserves to Chinese exploitation, something that will lead to environmental degradation and likely spark protests like those in Shiyes and elsewhere.

            Oblast officials are enthusiastic about the economic benefits they will reap from such Chinese involvement, even suggesting that their region is rapidly becoming “the forgotten klondike” in Moscow’s cooperation with China (

            But this program may backfire and mean that environmental protests are likely to break out in the Russian capital, a place that has largely avoided them by placing Russia’s most ecologically dangerous projects far away from the center. And thse may become anti-Chinese as well, especially given that regional officials had opposed such development earlier.

            That is especially likely given the anything but positive record of Chinese involvement in the exploitation of Russia’s natural resources east of the Urals where the behavior of Chinese investors and operators has infuriated the local population and contributed to the rise of regionalist movements that have been energized by anti-Chinese feelings.


Nearly Half of All Memorials to Stalin in Russia are in Republics whose Titular Nations He Deported, Outraging Survivors

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – North Caucasians protesting the existence of statues to Stalin point out that the greatest number of such memorials are precisely in republics subject to deportation or repression, including most prominently North Ossetia, Dagestan and Sakha ( 00236).

            (A separate enumeration carried out at the end of last year found that there were then 110 busts of Stalin in Russia as a whole. Of these, 48 were in the North Caucasus. And more than 90 percent of these have been erected since Vladimir Putin came to power (

            Not surprisingly, the erection of such statues in places where Stalin committed some of his worst crimes against humanity raises serious questions about the motives of those who have done so. But even less surprisingly, this pattern has outraged the survivors of the deportations – and now some have protested, albeit with little hope that these memorials will be taken down.

            The authors of an appeal, seven elderly survivors of the deportations, have unsuccessfully appealed to both their republic leaders and to Moscow where the appeal at best will be ignored and at worst will lead to still more repressions ( and

            But the appeal shows that this issue remains very much alive; and some observers are suggesting that the condemnation of Stalin for his crimes rather than the celebration of his life with memorials is the only hope Russia has for ever becoming a country capable of having a more or less normal future.

Putin’s Regional Amalgamation Plan a Revival of Khrushchev’s in 1957, Idel-Ural Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – Vladimir Putin has been promoting the amalgamation of smaller non-Russian federal subjects with larger and predominantly Russian ones off and on since he came to power in 2000. Now, he is set to begin again; and his plan traces its origins not to his earlier efforts but to a plan that Khrushchev first considered in 1957 before Brezhnev shelved it.

            Many commentators and some officials in Russia have suggested Putin will launch a country-wide regional amalgamation this year or at the latest yet, beginning with poorer and predominantly ethnic Russian ones and then extending to non-Russian republics (, and

            Most of these discussions have accepted the idea that Putin is simply reversing Lenin’s division of the Muscovite state into national republics or later divisions of Russian areas, both of which the Kremlin leader has suggested represent “delayed action mines” under the country that he wants to reverse to ensure control and improve efficiency.

            And they have also accepted the idea that what Putin is doing is something new. But a new article on the Idel-Ural portal notes that plans for amalgamation of republics and regions first arose in Khrushchev’s time in 1957 during his economic regionalization of the country (

            Those plans have never disappeared, the Idel-Ural portal says, although they have been delayed sometimes by officials in Moscow who fear that any such change could lead to chaos and at others by the resistance of people in the republics and regions who don’t want to lose the status and even limited advantages such arrangements provide.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

West Using Governments in Exile to Undermine Russia and Its Allies, FSB Head Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 25 – Aleksandr Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB, says that the West is forming “so-called ‘governments in exile’ aimed at seizing power in the countries of origin in the event of a deterioration in the socio-economic situation and mass unrest,” an indication that Moscow is infuriated by these bodies and takes them more seriously than many might suspect.

            Speaking at a Bishkek meeting of the Council of Heads of Security Agencies and Special Services of CIS Countries, the Russian spy chief said these groups are designed to promote and exploit conditions that can lead to “color revolutions” that the West hopes to use to overthrow existing regimes (

            Among the most important of these structures concerning groups within the current borders of the Russian Federation are the émigré Congress of Peoples Deputies for Russians, the exile government of Ichkeria, the government in exile of Tatarstan, and the Ingush Committee on Independence.

            Such structures are typically ignored by the West, but clearly they have gotten under the skin of Moscow which is likely to step up its attacks on them and on the support they have in the groups they represent, a move history suggests will be counter-productive for Moscow (

Number of Russians Needing Prosthetic Limbs has Grown Dramatically Since Start of Putin’s War in Ukraine, Official Russian Data Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 25 – The Russian government has been extremely chary in releasing data about the number of killed and wounded in Putin’s war in Ukraine. But the official agency responsible for providing support to those who need artificial limbs and other prosthetic devices has now released data showing documenting just how great the losses Russian forces have been.

            The Social Insurance Foundation now reports the number of people needing prosthetics jumped by 42 percent between 2022 and 2023 after rising no more than seven percent a year over the previous decade ( and

            Obviously, some of this increase is the result of accidents and medical conditions not connected with the war; but if previous increases of seven percent a year are subtracted, that means that more than 80 percent of the increase of some 137,000 invalids is the result of Russian military actions in Ukraine.

            But equally obvious are three other factors which suggest that Russian losses are even higher than the Social Insurance Foundation is reporting. First, there is widespread falsification of such data; second, there is a significant lag time between when injuries are incurred and prosthetics provided; and third, Moscow is making it harder for invalids to get such equipmen (

            For background on Russian statistics concerning invalids since the start of the war in Ukraine, see and


Caricatures – One Feature of Soviet Times Putin Doesn’t Want to Bring Back

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 25 – Caricatures and even entire publications devoted to caricatures first appeared in Soviet Russia in Lenin’s time and continued to appear right up to the end of the USSR, attacking approved targets for humor including under Gorbachev the supreme leader of the country and often providing comic relief for the population.

            But most of the caricature magazines like Krokodil disappeared in the early 1990s and have not been replaced. Fewer official publications carry such drawings; and the Internet has done little to keep this art form alive. More important, there are clear signs that Putin and his system don’t want to see any revival of caricatures, Yury Kondratyuk says.

            Writing in the current issue of Sovershenno Sekretno, the journalist says that caricatures are a dying art form. Most of those still producing caricatures are older men who got their start in Soviet times. There are few young people and almost no women in the field (

            The primary reason for the demise of caricatures in Russia, Kondratyuk says, is the change in the nature of censorship from Soviet times. Now, censors oversaw all media output and so they decided what could and could not appear, removing the burden from editors of making such choices.

            But now, censorship is imposed by closing down publications and other media outlets that violate typically unspoken rules. That means self-censorship is required. Editors and owners can’t afford to have a caricature appear that someone higher up may not like, and not knowing where the precise limits are, such people are inclined to be super cautious.

            Such fears, of course, exist with regard to articles; but they are even greater regarding caricatures because a caricature to be effective will almost always offend someone. Indeed, that is almost the definition of the nature of the genre. And so editors and even more owners are especially cautious.

            As a result, there are fewer and fewer outlets for caricatures; and ever more evidence that Putin doesn’t want to bring back this staple of Soviet life. The result? A grayer life with fewer smiles and less laughter even compared to some of the most difficult times of Soviet history, the Sovershenno Sekretno journalist says. 


Sunday, May 26, 2024

Administrative Borders of Soviet Republics that have Become State Borders of Independent Countries Anything but Regular

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 24 – Except for natural boundaries like the external border of the USSR or rivers and seas, the borders of the former union republics which became independent states were not only frequently changed but were anything but the straight lines that many imagine when looking at small scale maps showing large regions.

            Except in cases where conflicts have broken out, typically on an ethnic basis, neither of these realities have attracted much attention over the last 30 years because the post-Soviet states and the leaders of the international community both insisted that the administrative borders of the union republics must become the state borders of the newly independent countries.

            Despite this and resistance to any talk of changing borders, there is growing recognition that Soviet-era borders were imposed by Moscow for its own purposes rather than being the result of any rational calculations or a reflection of the interests of the population along them (

            But there is far less discussion of just how irregular these borders often were and thus remain and what the consequences of such irregularities have been for the people living there. That makes a new article by journalists from the TengriNews agency of Kazakhstan especially useful (

            Two of its journalists visited the village of Meshchanka on the Kazakhstan side of the Kazakhstan-Russian border in Abai Oblast that is surrounded on three sides by Russian territory, is not connected by road to anywhere else, no longer has a school, post office or business, and lacks internet connectivity.

            Not surprisingly, Meshchanka, which had been a thriving center of agricultural activity in Soviet times, has been losing population ever since and now has only a handful of people left. As the article makes clear, these “last of the Mohicans” will soon leave or die as well and Meshchanka will cease to exist.

            The news agency provides a aerial photograph of the village and the Kazakhstan-Russian borders which surround it on three sides. It is not clear whether the village might have fared better had the borders been changed, but it is clear that the borders that remain in place look more like administrative ones in rural areas within a large country than state borders.

            And that is hardly surprising given that that is precisely what they were before 1991.

A Real Turning Point in the South Caucasus: Border Guards Replace Military Units Along Newly Delimited Portion of Armenian-Azerbaijani Border

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 24 – In April, Yerevan and Baku agreed on the delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijan border in the north the return to Azerbaijan of four villages to Azerbaijani control, an action that sparked protests not only there but in Yerevan and other Armenian cities (

            That led Yerevan to request and Moscow to agree to pull its so-called “peacekeepers” from the region, something the Russian government did as part of its withdrawal of these units from within Azerbaijan now that Baku has established full control over that region (

            But now, Yerevan and Baku have taken the next and most critical step: they have replaced the military units that had been along the pre-agreement line with border guards along the newly established state border between them, a major step forward in the delimitation and demarcation of the border and toward a genuine peace treaty (

            Protests may continue or even expand among Armenians who believe that any territorial concessions to Azerbaijan are an existential threat to the survival of Armenia. But the fact that the government of Nikol Pashinyan has weathered these protests and taken this step toward the creation of a genuine peacetime border is impressive.

            A great deal of work nonetheless needs to be done to make this a border of peace rather than a line separating two armed nations. Armenia will have to build new roads to allow those living along the border the ability to move about freely, and Azerbaijan will have to avoid any actions in the areas it has regained control of that will feed Armenian fears.

            But what has happened is a signal victory for Pashinyan’s policies and for peace in the south Caucasus and deserves to be celebrated as such even though there will be those both in his country and in Moscow who will undoubtedly continue to fan the flames of conflict as further delimitation talks between Yerevan and Baku proceed. 

Call for Banning Niqāb Highlights Problems in Moscow’s Turn to the East and Stress on Traditional Values, ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – Only a few years ago, few Muslim women wore the niqāb, a form of dress that covers all of their bodies except for their eyes; but now that has become commonplace and it is no longer a rarity to see Muslim women in Russian cities wearing even chadors which conceal the eyes behind a screen.

            Not surprisingly, this trend has both frightened and outraged many Russians including Valery Fadeyev, the head of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, who says that Moscow should ban the niqab and even more extreme forms of dress not only because they are not traditional to Russia but are part of a dangerous radicalization of Muslims there.

            In his appeal, Fadeyev points to the growing interest in guns by Russia’s Muslims and especially migrant workers from Muslim countries as a threat to Russia’s stability and territorial integrity, a call that has sparked opposition from both Muslim leaders as not only untrue by counterproductive.

            Perhaps the most thoughtful response to this debate comes from the editors of Nezavsimaya Gazeta who place it in the context of larger trends in Russian public life and suggest that Moscow should see both the niqab and calls for its ban as warning signs about the consequences of the regime’s policies (

            Two of the most often proclaimed Kremlin policies are its turn to the east and its commitment to traditional values, the editors write. But these are not unproblematic as the debate about the niqab shows. The situation with regard to the niqab is especially indicative in this regard.

            Many now defending the niqab are relying on Moscow’s turn to the east and suggesting that any ban on this form of dress would undermine Russia’s relations with the east. But if Russia is to be sovereign, the editors continue, then it must be sovereign in both directions. And the regime needs to make that clear.

            “The same goes for traditionalism,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta says. It is an open question whether the niqab is in fact a manifestation of a commitment to traditionalism. Many experts say that in fact it is “a reaction to the extremes of progressivism and represent a completely post-modern idea of zels in the faith rather than to any memory of the past.”

            For that reason, the editors say, “the declaration of traditional values [by the Putin regime] should be clarified. Society needs to know exactly what the traditions of the peoples of Russi are and where the line is between health conservatism and religious fanaticism and between the memory of ancestors and radical obscurantism.”


Number of Political Prisoners Forced to Undergo Psychiatric Treatment has Risen by Five Times Since Start of Putin’s Expanded War in Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – One of the most noxious features of the Brezhnev era is rapidly being reborn in Putin’s Russia: political prisoners are increasingly being forced to undergo psychiatric treatment, with the number of such victims having increased by five times between 2021 and 2023, Andrey Zatirko of Agentsvo says.

            Drawing on the work of OVD-Info, Memorial and First Department, the journalist says that in the last 18 months a minimum of 33 political prisoners have been subject to punitive psychiatry, with the numbers having rapidly risen and set to rise still further this year (

            Prior to the launch of Putin’s expanded war in Ukraine, the number of such cases was relatively small, averaging three per year between 2013 and 2020, Zatirko says; but with the war and the explosion of cases involving anti-war protesters, forced incarceration in psychiatric prisons has gone up dramatically.

            As horrific as this practice is, Aleksey Makarov of Memorial says, it has not yet reached the dimensions it did in Soviet times. “In the mid-1970s,” he notes, “approximately every sixth individual condemned for anti-Soviet agitation or the dissemination of intentionally slanderous statements was confined” in a psychiatric prison hospital.

            Today, the percentage of such confinements is still much lower and so far most of those forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation and treatment are being held in psychiatric hospitals rather than psychiatric prisons, an arrangement the authorities could easily change if they decided to take more radical steps. 

Many Russian Media Outlets Set Up Abroad Since Start of Putin’s Expanded War in Ukraine May Close for Lack of Funds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – Many analysts have suggested that the exodus of as many as 1500 Russian journalists after Vladimir Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine in 2022 would ensure that a free Russian media would survive, provide news and information to the homeland, and document what is happening there for the world to see.

            (For a detailed and thoughtful discussion of the way in which this new Russian émigré media have been playing this role and one that makes the case that such media could play an even more essential role if Putin’s repression increases, see the article of Kseniya Luchenko now at the European Council of Foreign Relations at

            But many of these outlets are closing or at risk of closing, the victims of both their own overly ambitious plans that were based on the assumption that they would soon be able to return to a post-Putin Russia and the decision of Western organizations to cut back or even end the grants they had made earlier.

            The latest of these outlets to announce its closure is Ilya Krasilshchikov’s Support Service that was established with high hopes in the summer of 2022 but no longer is receiving the grants it had expected and needs to operate (

            A few émigré outlets are still in good shape either because they are financed by wealthy Russians or continue to get grants, but an increasing number are at risk – and ever more often less because of Putin’s actions than because of the decisions of Western grant-making organizations.

            Given the importance of these outlets for the Russian people and for Western understanding of what Putin is doing, it is critically important that such émigré outlets tighten their belts and prepare for the long haul and that Western grant-making institutions revisit their decisions and support the activities of this increasingly critical branch of Russian media.

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, he 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.