Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Putin TV Not about Propaganda but about Dehumanizing Its Viewers, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – It is long past time calling “the content of Russia media propaganda,” Igor Yakovenko says. Propaganda is about promoting and spreading an ideology, “a system of ideas concerning the future and ways of achieving them.” But there is no Putinist ideology, and there isn’t going to be any.

            In an article in Yezhednevny zhurnal, the Russian commentator says that the immediate goal of Putin television is “to cover with dirt the opponents of the regime, foreign and domestic.” That puts it in sharp contrast with Soviet propaganda which despite its hypocrisy and falseness at least had a broader message (

                For the hosts of state television programs now, he continues, there is no broader message. Attacking and destroying the reputation of anyone the Kremlin doesn’t like is sufficient because “the goal of Putin television is the establishment of an industry of the de-humanization of the population” by destroying all norms and values. 

            Many opponents of the regime willingly participate in such programs confident that their arguments are stronger and that that will make a difference. In many cases, as Yakovenko documents, they are right about the arguments but wrong about their ability to have an impact given that the hosts don’t want a debate but a show and don’t engage in genuine discussions.

            “Exceptionally rare are the cases when a second point of view in practice looks justified,” he argues.  And consequently, those who do agree to take part in such programs are in fact “helping to achieve the plan of the organizers of these shows, to raise the level of hatred toward enemies of the powers foreign and domestic,” and to belittle anyone who disagrees.

            As result, “opponents of the powers may speak wisely and even completely convincingly” from the point of view of practice, but that doesn’t matter because that is not why they are invite to take part in shows that are not about propaganda in the usual sense but about the destruction of all decent norms of human behavior.

A ‘Small Color Revolution’ Breaks Out inside Russia – Among the Circassians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – One of the defining characteristics of the Putin years has been Moscow’s fear that someone somewhere will succeed in launching a color revolution within the borders of the Russian Federation and thus undermine or even overthrow the existing regime. Now, a Nezavisimaya gazeta journalist suggests, such a revolution may have started.

            In an article in today’s edition entitled “The Small ‘Tulip Revolution of the Circassians,” Artur Priymak says that Circassian efforts to defend their holy tree and their anger at official treatment of Ruslan Gvashev who has led that effort have attracted attention “at the highest levels” (

            Gvashev points out that Circassians from across the North Caucasus decided to say a prayer in May at a tulip tree in Sochi for their ancestors who fought the Russian advance in tsarist times. But officials weren’t prepared to allow that because the tree is not listed in the kray’s register of holy places. For going ahead anywhere, Gvashev was arrested and charged.

            He declared and then ended a hunger strike against his mistreatment, Priymak says; and he attracted broad support from Circassians. When officials refused his appeals, the journalist says, “many citizens of Abkhazia were ready as a mark of protest to give up their Russian passports.”

             Abakhaz officials flew to Moscow and Sochi to discuss the situation and to point out the significance of the tulip tree in Circassian life, according to Abkhaz political scientist David Dasania. He added that as a result, the views of Russian officials had changed and that they will consult more broadly with the Circassians. 

            “Now the Sochi authorities will consult in the first instance with respected Shapsugs [a subgroup of the Circassians] and of course with Ruslan Gvashev,” Dasania says. Others including some in the Adyge Khase organization “will lose status as negotiators” even if they retain their positions in that organization.

            According to Dasania, what has taken place with Gvashev is entirely the work of local officials and there has not been any “’order’ from Moscow” in his case.  The local bureaucrats understood the actions at the tree not as a prayer which they would have had to respect but as a meeting whose participants could be arrested for failing to get approval in advance.

            So far, the Circassians have not succeeded in convincing the local officials that they are wrong, and consequently, on Monday of this week, the court of first instance left Gvashev’s conviction in place even after a kray court reversed its original finding, something that has clearly outraged the Circassians and created a situation no one in Moscow wants.

            And while the Russian journalist’s application of the term “tulip revolution” to this series of events may be overblown, it is clearly the case that yet another people has found its voice and a way to use the contradictions within the powers that be to advance its agenda, thus meeting one of the key parts of the definition of a color revolution.

            This case and this “revolution” are clearly not over. 

Only One Percent of Russian-North Korean Trade Affected by Putin’s Joining Sanctions Regime

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – As often happens, Vladimir Putin has been given credit for something that on closer examination appears to be far less than Russian and Western media are saying. In this case, the BBC’s Russian Service has found that his joining the UN sanctions regime against North Korea will affect only one percent of Russian-North Korean trade. 

            On Monday, the Kremlin leader signed a decree strengthening sanctions against North Korea, a move many welcomed as a sign that Putin wants to be more cooperative with the international system. But the numbers show how remarkably little this may cost him and his country (

                The UN sanctions are intended to prevent North Korea from gaining any components that it might use for nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and includes a ban on dual-use technologies as well.  So far this year, Russia exported 400,000 US dollars’ worth of goods that would now be banned; last year, it sold Pyongyang one million dollars’ worth of such goods.

            Russia’s main exports to North Korea have been coal, food products including vodka, and medicines.  North Korea in turn has exported only about a tenth as much to Russia as Russia has exported to it, with a third of its total being clothes. 

            Putin has also promised that Russia will stop all scientific-technical cooperation with North Korea except in the areas of medicine, nuclear medicine, and aircraft and aviation technology, as long as it secures guarantees that this cooperation will not promote the development of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

            The Kremlin leader also agreed that all North Koreans working in Russia at jobs other than diplomatic ones are to be deported and that Pyongyang is prohibited from using any property in Russia except for diplomatic and consular work.