Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Putin’s Language Policy Spreading Chaos and Anger in Non-Russian Republics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – Just as has been the case with his actions regarding foreign countries, Vladimir Putin’s new policy on languages is generating chaos in the schools of Tatarstan and other non-Russian republics, helping him to avoid being held responsible for a situation he created and allowing him to move far further than his original words suggested.

            Indeed, Ilshat Sayedov, a political scientist, argues in Novaya gazeta today, the main goal of Putin and the Russian activists who support him is “not an increase in the number of hours of Russian for their children but a ban on the required study of Tatar” by everyone, including Tatar pupils whose parents want them to study it (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/11/20/74610-tatary-podchinyayutsya-no-ne-povinuyutsya).

            If Putin is able to do that, he will please many Russian nationalists who don’t believe that anyone except they should have the right to study his or her language; but he is already triggering a nationalist backlash among not only activists in the republics but also among the ostensibly loyal and obedient republic leaderships.

            Ever since Putin announced in Ufa last summer that no one should have to study any language other than Russian except on a voluntarily basis, Moscow has sent mixed signals as to just what that means. The Russian education ministry has called for compromise, but Putin’s press secretary has taken a hard line.

            And that line has led prosecutors to investigate non-Russian schools where they have found exactly what they expected to find and have called for school directors to end the requirement that all pupils study the national language of the republic they live in and to shift teachers of those languages to other subjects.

            Because this is being done in the middle of the school year, the result has been chaos, the kind of chaos many are now blaming on the schools and the republics rather than on the man responsible, Vladimir Putin, whose superficially reasonable words – everything should be voluntary – conceal a broad attack on non-Russian languages and non-Russian republics.

            But there is something even worse taking place, the journalist says. “The most horrible thing is that children are beginning to be divided into Tatars and Russians” in Tatarstan and between the titular nationality in other republics and ethnic Russians. That promises no good for anyone.

            “No other action could so divide society and set the nationally oriented strata in the republics against the federation and often against the local authorities as well,” Sayedov says. “Many patriotically inclined Tatars, for example, only now have understood that ‘the Russian world’ is not for them and that no one in this ‘world’ needs them.”

            A backlash is setting in, the political analyst continues, with some Tatars furious at being treated as “second class citizens” now calling for the schools in their republic to conduct instruction only in Tatar, something that might weaken their language and people as well but that underscores how angry the chaos Putin has provoked and his obvious intentions have left them.

Moscow’s Extraction of ISIS Cadres from Syria Suggests Russia May Use Them Elsewhere, Smulyevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – For the last several years, Russian security services have driven Islamist radicals and others out of the North Caucasus and other regions of the Russian Federation under paid of jail or death to fight for ISIS in Syria, Israeli expert Avraam Shmulyevich says.

            Now that the last redoubts of the Islamic State in that country have fallen, these same services, exploiting Chechens in Syria, have begun to extract these same people back to Russia, an action that strongly suggests, the president of the Israeli Eastern Partnership Institute says, that Moscow plans to make use of them elsewhere – and may even have them under its control.

            One place where this is especially likely, Shmulyevich continues, is in Crimea where the ISIS cadres may stage terrorist actions that Moscow can the blame on the Crimean Tatars and thus gain understanding if not support for its repressive moves against that minority in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian peninsula.

            Shmulyevich made these and other points in the course of an interview with US-based Russian journalist Kseniya Kirillova , although he was careful to say that he did not have definitive proof for these possibilities but that Moscow’s recent actions do not allow much room for any alternative conclusion (ru.krymr.com/a/28858018.html).

            In the past, as in the run-up to the Sochi Olympiad in 2014, the Russian authorities have not even tried to conceal their role in pushing North Caucasians to leave and fight for ISIS, an effort the Russian media have suggested reduces the likelihood of terrorist actions within the borders of the Russian Federation.

            Shmulyevich has investigated the ways in which some Islamists from Russia have gone to Syria in hopes of acquiring military skills that they could employ back at home, but those whom Moscow is now helping to extract are unlikely to take up arms against Moscow. Instead, it is far more likely that they will use their “skills” to promote Moscow’s policies.

            “There are as yet insufficient data on the character of relations between Russia and ISIS,” the Israeli expert says. They might be limited only to a cooperative one based on common goals in particular places or they might be those of “a creature of Moscow,” especially if the Russian government follows Soviet precedents.

            The most likely places such people could be deployed would be in the North Caucasus and in Crimea, locations where Moscow would be delighted to organize violent actions that could be blamed on Muslims of another stripe entirely. The only real limiting factor, Shmulyevich says, is that Putin doesn’t want to allow any terrorist action at all.

            The reason is simple: the Kremlin leader portrays himself as the victor over terrorism in Russia and would not like to see that questioned as the election approaches. But at the same time, Putin’s behavior in the past shows that he is more than prepared to use those he controls to place blame on those who are his targets, be it Chechens in 1999 or Crimean Tatars now.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Migrant Worker Children More Successful than Native Russians, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 19 – Gastarbeiters in Russian cities from the former Soviet republics typically work at lower-paying and lower-status jobs than the Russians around them, but their children on reaching maturity often have more education and have higher incomes that do members of the indigenous population, according to a new study.

            The study, which focused only on Armenians and Azerbaijanis, was conducted by a group of scholars at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service. They warn against overgeneralizing the results of this small pilot research project on a subject about which little academic work has been carried out (kommersant.ru/doc/3468861).

                But Yevgeny Varshaver, who led the research group, says the findings are suggestive of a trend that may become widespread if large numbers of children of gastarbeiters choose to remain in Russia long enough to grow up, get an education and go to work on their own. 

            He notes that his group found that this second generation of migrants, aged 18 to 30,  had average reported incomes of 36,400 rubles (600 US dollars) a month, as compared to average reported incomes among native Russians of 25,600 rubles (430 US dollars) a month, a significant difference.

            The researchers found that some of the Armenians and Azerbaijanis in smaller Russian cities went to work in the same kind of businesses their parents had started, while those in Moscow and other larger cities, especially women, typically went into professions requiring more education which they had managed to achieve.

            According to Varshaver, “migrants of the second generation are more educated than the average for Russians,” with a higher percentage of them completing higher education while Russians as a whole tended to stop before doing so.  Thus, the migrants experienced greater upward social mobility than Russians.

            With regard to their attachment to their ethnic communities, he continues, the evidence points in two ways. In smaller cities where ethnic regions have formed, the second generation tends to stay within the community, while in Moscow, where no such regions have emerged in the same way, the reverse is the case.

            Varshaver says that “there is no integration policy in Russia,” largely because those charged with dealing with the issue are the police. The latter’s use of force may keep the first generation in line, he continues, but this will have a much smaller impact on the second generation.

            And that is going to matter ever more in the future, he suggests, because the first generation of migrants had a common Soviet background while the second generation may be less affected by that and more by ethnicity. And any new immigrants will be increasingly different because they do not share such common experiences.

            In his comments to Kommersant, Varshaver does not discuss how Russians are likely to view the outcome he describes with children of migrants doing better than children of indigenous Russians. But if this report is given widespread attention, it is certain to spark resentment and possibly lead to even more demands that migrants and their children be sent home.