Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow to Draft Chechens This Fall and Crimean Residents in the Spring

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 30 – The Russian general staff has announced that it will draft young men from Chechnya this fall for the first time in 20 years and will begin drafting that cohort from occupied Crimea and Sevastopol next spring, an indication of just how hard Moscow is having to work to compensate for demographic shortfalls among ethnic Russians.


            Today, the Russian general staff said it would draft 154,100 people in the upcoming fall draft, a slight increase over the 153,200 it drafted last spring, but the new draft will be different: Moscow said it plans to draft 500 young men from Chechnya, the first time it has done so since Soviet times (echo.msk.ru/news/1409550-echo.html).


            Meanwhile, the Russian military said it would begin the Russian draft in newly-annexed  Crimea next spring because as of January 1, 2015, “all laws of the Russian Federation will be applied in their full extent to the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol,” including the draft (nr2.com.ua/News/politics_and_society/Vesnoy-krymchan-prizovut-v-armiyu-RF-81125.html).


            The decision to resume drafting young men in the North Caucasus reflects in the first instance Moscow’s need to find more manpower at a time when the number of draft-age ethnic Russians is declining, even if it means taking in men many commanders would prefer not to have in their units lest they cause trouble in the ranks or subsequently use the military skills they acquire against Russian forces.


            But it also reflects pressure from North Caucasus leaders. On the one hand, they want the military to resume the draft there in order to cut unemployment among the young, a status that they say often makes such people more susceptible to the arguments of the militants, and to give these young men the ability to get jobs in the police.


            And on the other, these leaders point out, Moscow’s failure to draft in the North Caucasus in recent years has been an even greater recruiting tool for the militants: The latter point out that by not drafting North Caucasians, the Russian government is saying that it doesn’t view them as full citizens. In that event, the militants say, why not struggle against Moscow?


             The extension of the draft to Crimea and Sevastopol presents another set of problems.  While some ethnic Russians there may be quite willing to serve in the Russian military, many Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars will certainly view this as the most unwelcome extension of Russian power yet and quite possibly resist.




Window on Eurasia: Moscow to Dramatically Increase Spending on ‘Russia Today’

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 26 – At a time when Moscow is cutting spending on education and health and in an indication of the importance the Kremlin places on propaganda, the Russian government is going to increase the amount of money it will give to the television channel “Russia Today” next year by 41 percent over what it had announced earlier.


            According to a report in today’s “Novyye izvestiya,” the government is increasing its spending for all media including domestic media but by far smaller amounts. Thus, for example, state subsidies for domestic radio and television will rise only from 21.7 billion rubles to 22.2 billion  or about three percent (newizv.ru/politics/2014-09-30/208354-rossija-rezko-uvelichivaet-rashody-na-zabugornuju-propagandu.html).


            Andrey Mayboroda, the director of the Moscow Center for Political Research, commented to the paper that “it is obvious that the state is generously increasing its spending only on the propaganda machine directed at the foreign consumer. In Russia, the zombification of the population has been going on for a long time and successfully. Large additional cash infusions aren’t needed.”


            But, he said, in Moscow’s judgment, Russian broadcasting abroad “has not had the desired impact.”  Unfortunately for those behind this budgetary move, “an attempt to achieve the necessary result by increasing spending for the purchase of new ‘furniture’ without changing ‘the girls’ [who host the station] is condemned to failure in advance.”


            What is “sad” about this, Mayborda added, is that those who are having to pay for this doomed project are not those who have ordered it but rather “the ordinary Russian taxpayer.”


Window on Eurasia: Russians Have More Friends Abroad than They Think -- But in Different Places than Before 1991

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 30 – Many Russians now believe that everyone in the world hates them and wishes their country ill, but that is not the case, Ruslan Gorevoy argues in “Novaya Versiya.”  Russia and Russians even now have many friends: they just aren’t in the places where they were in Soviet times.


            In the current issue of that weekly, the Moscow commentator says that it is time to stop repeating Alexander III’s famous dictum that Russia has “only two true allies, its army and its fleet” and recognize that Russia and Russians do have friends beyond the borders of the Russian Federation (versia.ru/articles/2014/sep/29/odinnadtsat_druzey_putina).


            There are in fact a lot of them, somewhat fewer politicians than in the past but somewhat more entrepreneurs and “those whom it is customary to call the intellectual elite,” Gorevoy continues. And then he provides a survey of Russia’s friends at the level of countries, then at the level of political movements, and finally at the level of individuals.


            All Russians know that the US is the main enemy, followed by Great Britain and then Poland, three countries which are “prepared to make friends with anyone as long as they are against Russia.”  But there are other countries in the world, and not all of them follow the American line.


            Before the Ukrainian crisis, Gorevoy says, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll in several dozen countries about popular attitudes toward Russia. Most opposed to Russia were Japan, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Germany and France. Most favorably disposed were Greece, South Korea, Ghana, Kenya, Malaysia, India and Indonesia.


            Some of those attitudes have shifted since that time, Gorevoy continues, but many have remained in the same camps. Now, Russia’s “most probable potential allies are such countries as Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand, and the Philippines,” while the least likely partners are Poland, Italy, Spain and the United States.


            Many Russians are struck or confused by the fact that those who were sympathetic to Moscow in the past no longer are, but they need to remember that “those who sympathized with us in the past loved not Russia but communism,” and with the end of communism has come in most cases the end of such positive feelings.


            That is not so much as many think because the USSR spent more than Russia does on gaining the support of such people, Gorevoy argues, but rather because communist ideology was attractive to many in the West who are nonetheless put off by Russian nationalism.


             He cites Sergey Markov, a Moscow commentator, on this point.  Arguing that no one should confuse attachment to communism and attachment to Russia, he says that “when our country rejected communist ideology, all those who shared the ideas of Marx and Lenin immediately ceased to sympathize with it.”


            There is not the slightest chance, he says, that the Rosenbergs would have “risked their lives” to hand over the plans for the atomic bomb to the Russian special services as opposed to the Soviet agencies as they did.


            Russia also benefits from the friendships Vladimir Putin has with certain Western politicians, including Gerhard Schroeder of Germany and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and from support of nationalist political parties in Europe who oppose the EU and who are seek to destroy it from within. He cites the recent article of Mitchell Orenstein in “Foreign Policy” on this point.


            These parties include the French National Front, the Hungarian Jobbiks, the Bulgarian Attack parliamentary group, the Austrian Peoples Party, the Flemmish Interest Party of Belgium, the Italian ‘Forward, Italy” and Northern League parties, and the Polish Self Defense party, all of which have parliamentary representation and all of which are “friends of Russia.”


            Many Western businessmen are also favorably inclined toward Russia, largely if not exclusively because of their interest in making money there, Gorevoy argues. But more intriguing are the positive relations of actors, film stars, and the like who often express sympathy for Russia without gaining anything – except in the case of Gerard Depardieu.


            Among these people are Helen Mirren, Mickey Rourke and Steven Siegel.  Mirren is of Russian background, but the other two are not. How do they explain Russia’s attraction to them? Rourke says that Russia attracts him because it “can stand up against everyone and win,” and Siegel says he “understands Russian people” better than he understands Americans and “feels himself art of Russian life and Russian culture.”


            At the end of his article, Gorevoy offers quotations from three prominent political commentators who are also very much “friends of Russia;” Alexander Rahr of Germany, Stephen Cohen of the United States, and Dmitry Trenin, the director of the Moscow Carnegie Center.

Window on Eurasia: Some Russians Blame Lenin and Stalin for Moscow’s Problems in Ukraine

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 30 -- Following the Crimean Anschluss, Russians have stopped focusing their anger on Nikita Khrushchev, who transferred Crimea from the RSFSR to Ukraine, as a primary source of their problems with Ukrainians and shifted attention to the role Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin played in creating the current tensions between the two nations.


            Some Russians, largely out of ignorance, Ilya Lazarenko writes in a commentary on Rufabula.com, believe that “Lenin created Ukraine, added Kharkiv to it, and so on.”  But such views arise from the “one grandmother said to another” school of historical interpretation and need to be fought (rufabula.com/author/ilya-lazarenko/116).


The facts, the Ukrainian commentator continues, are these, “the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) appeared as a result of the Ukrainian Peoples Republic (UNR),” had borders which “corresponded with the borders” of that earlier state, and was demarcated according to regins which were “predominantly” Ukrainian in population.

But those historical realities were overwhelmed in the minds of many Russians by government propaganda beginning a year or so ago which claimed, among other falsehoods, that “Lenin was the creator of Ukraine,” a claim that not only denigrated the Ukrainians as a nation but implied that Lenin had made a mistake and that Moscow must “correct” it.


The events of 1917 and the years following are complicated but not that difficult to understand, Lazarenko says. Two days after Nicholas II abdicated, the Ukrainian Central Rada was set up in Kyiv as a coordinating council for the Ukrainian national movement which at that time was pressing for the autonomy of Ukraine within a Russian federal state.


Even when the Bolsheviks ceased power in November 1917, Kyiv did not immediately declare independence because it was placing its faith in the Constituent Assembly. But even before the Bolsheviks suppressed that body, they issued an ultimatum to Kyiv to subordinate itself to their regime, something the Ukrainians rejected.


Even then, however, Kyiv did not declare its independence, but its refusal to recognize the Bolshevik regime led a group of Bolshevik deputies of the All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets to go to Kharkiv where they proclaimed what was in effect a marionette state, the Ukrainian Peoples Republic of Soviets.


When Lenin dissolved the Constituent Assembly, Lazarenko continues, “the legitimacy of statehood on the territory of the former Russian Empire completely broke down.” And as a result, the Ukrainian Peoples Republic declared its independence.  Although later destroyed by the forces of the Bolshevik regime, it continued to exist de jure in the emigration until 1992.


That summary should make it clear, he says, that “the USSR was not established by the Bolsheviks from nothing” as some Russians think, “but was the result of the recognition of the right of Ukrainians to self-determination under the pressure of objective circumstances -- a strong Ukrainian national movement and a Ukrainian statehood recognized even before the Bolsheviks.”


 More intriguing are Russian commentaries about Stalin’s role in creating the current situation in Ukraine as a result of his decision to annex Western Ukraine, something that became possible as a result of his alliance with Hitler and invasion of Poland but that, as many Western specialists have pointed out, has had serious consequences for Ukraine and Moscow ever since.


In an article on the Russian nationalist site Stoletie.ru, Mikhail Slobodskoy argues that by annexing Western Ukraine, the Soviet leadership allowed into the USSR “a Trojan horse” that ultimately played a key role in the destruction of the USSR and the radicalization of Ukrainian nationalism (stoletie.ru/territoriya_istorii/zapadenskij_trojanskij_kon_628.htm).


            “The events in 1939 developed so rapidly,” he says, “that the Soviet leadership apparently then simply was not able or not able correctly to calculate all the negative consequecnes connected with the unification of Western Ukraine to the USSR,” given that the different historical experiences of Ukrainians there who were now to be tied to Soviet Ukraine.


            It is very likely, Slobodskoy says, that “the leadership of the USSR” – his euphemism for Stalin – “simply did not have any other geopolitical possibility” and may have been driven by a desire for “the triumph of historical justice” by the inclusion of lands that in most cases had been part of the Russian Empire.


            “But by including Western Ukraine within the country, the leadership of the USSR by its own hands allowed in a unique ‘Trojan horse,’ which was absolutely alien socially and historically on what was then the common territory” of the Ukrainian SSR and of the USSR as a whole.


            Moscow first encountered this reality when following Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, people from Western Ukraine were among the first to join the German forces to fight the Soviet ones. But even after the war and until at least 1953, Western Ukrainians continued their armed resistance to Soviet power.


            But the destructive influence of the Western Ukrainians re-emerged with the beginning of perestroika, Slobodskoy continues, during the discussion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, something which “literally” became a Pandora’s box for the USSR.  “The unification of Galicia to the USSR on the whole played a negative role in the fate of the entire former Ukrainian SSR and, as we see, Russia” as well, he says.

Window on Eurasia: Lukashenka Quietly Purging Pro-Moscow ‘Fifth Column’ in Belarus

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 30 – Concerned that Moscow might engineer a regime change in Belarus as a follow on to its actions in Ukraine, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been purging pro-Russian officials from his regime – but in a very quiet way lest he provoke Moscow as a result, according to “Nasha Niva.”


            The Belarusian daily reports that “the families of officials who are noted for their sympathies to the Kremlin and the chauvinist ideas of ‘the Russian world’ are simply being quietly dropped from the lists of leaders” in Minsk, sometimes with no announcement they are being dismissed (nn.by/?c=ar&i=136066 and obozrevatel.com/abroad/82695-lukashenko-nachal-izbavlyatsya-ot-rossijskoj-pyatoj-kolonyi.htm).


            The latest example of this, “Nasha Niva” says, is the removal of Lev Krishtapovich as deputy director of the Information-Analytic Center of the presidential administration.  Without any announcement at all, his name simply has ceased to appear among its leaders in new publications.


            At the age of 65, Krishtapovich might have retired, but that is not what has happened. Instead, he is now in charge of the scientific-research department of the Belarusian State University of Culture, a distinctly less important and less influential post.


            In recent years, he had been one of the most prominent exponents of what is sometimes referred to as “West Russism,” the notion that Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are a single ethnos rather than separate nations. Several of his books pushed that idea, including one with the provocative title “Belarus and Russia: A Historiosophical and Civilizational Unity.”


            But he was even more famous or infamous for his dismissive comments about Belarusian history, his opposition to Mensk’s program to preserve architectural monuments in Belarus, and his having received, last year from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Order of Friendship.”


            Indeed, it is even possible that that action by Putin triggered his removal, the Belarusian paper implied. If so, Kristapovich's dismissal is even more significant as an indication of Lukashenka’s fears and his moves to defend himself and his country from Moscow.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Papal Nuncio in Kyiv Denounces Russian Aggression in Ukraine

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 29 – Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, the apostolic nuncio in Kyiv, has denounced Moscow for conduct “an undeclared war” against Ukraine that has destabilized the situation of that neighboring state. This follows his earlier call for the West to “more decisively intervene” to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.


            At the same time, Gullickson, 64 and born in the United States, said that in addition to Moscow, Ukraine has “another enemy, its own elite.”  And he called on religious organizations in Ukraine to “more objectively analyze” what is going on rather than seek to win points for themselves by speaking out one way or another (ng.ru/faith/2014-09-26/2_pope.html).


            The nuncio made these points at a meeting of Aid to the Church in Need organization. He said that Ukraine’s destabilization had “to a significant degree” occurred because of the actions of its earlier “criminal oligarchy” but had been intensified by “Russian aggression against its territorial integrity and sovereignty.”


            “Even if Moscow’s intervention ended tomorrow,” the archbishop said, “Ukraine besides the rehabilitation of the east would have to deal with some extraordinary challenges in order to escape from corruption and build a just society.”


            The nuncio added that in his view, “the military actions in Ukraine directly touch on the Catholic Church because of ‘the essential harm’ inflicted on its churches” and because some Catholics “have been forced to leave the territory of Ukraine which has been ‘occupied’ by Russia.”


            Not surprisingly, the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church does not agree with the papal nuncio, but its reaction so far has been remarkably measured compared to many of its other statements about Ukrainian developments.


            Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the synod’s department for relations between the church and society, said Moscow has heard all this before from those who “stand on one side in a civil conflict – and this is precisely one of those” even though on each side of the conflict there are people with differing views on the future of Ukraine, Europe and the world.


            “We would like to hope,” he said, “that all religious communities in Europe, in the world, in Ukraine and in Russia will be able to take into consideration the feelings, aspirations and interests of people who are on both sides of the conflict in the way that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is doing.”     


Window on Eurasia: Could the Muslims of Kaliningrad Trigger a Maidan in the Russian Exclave?

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 29 – The 100,000-strong Muslim community of Kaliningrad is running out of options in the Russian legal system to secure land for the construction of a mosque in that Russian exclave and consequently will now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, according to their lawyer Dagir Khasavov.


            But meanwhile, continuing opposition by regional officials to a mosque, Irshat Khisamov, head of the Muslim community in the oblast, says, is having “an extremely negative” impact on the members of his community. And many of them believe the governor there wants “a Maidan like the one in Ukraine” (newkaliningrad.ru/news/community/4368182-musulmane-gubernator-khochet-chtoby-zdes-byl-maydan-kak-na-ukraine.html).


            Up to now, Khisamov said, he and his fellow Muslim leaders have worked to restrain their parishioners, but he told Newkaliningrad.ru, “you will understand that this is not our question alone. There are more than 100,000 Muslims here, and each has a stone in his heart” because there is no mosque.


            “When things explode as they will we cannot say,” he continued, “and we will continue to read homilies about the friendship of the peoples, but if each holds a stone in his heart, then it is difficult to restrain” the faithful. And by implication, the longer the Russian authorities deny the Muslims their rights, the harder that is going to be.


            The Kaliningrad mosque case has been a complicated one, but at each stage, the Muslims have lost. Their lawyer says that they are going through the motions of a final appeal to the Russian Supreme Court but “our faith in the Russian court system has been reduced to a minimum … Muslims are hostages of the intolerance of the region’s Orthodox leadership.”


            When a Kaliningrad court first blocked the construction of the mosque in April of this year, it declared that all the documents that the Muslims had earlier received permitting the construction of a mosque were invalid and that they must stop work immediately. At that time, Khasavov called the court’s decision “a gift to the radical wing of Islam” (newkaliningrad.ru/news/community/3498015-advokat-mecheti-v-kaliningrade-etot-sud-podarok-radikalnomu-krylu-islama.html).


            The Kaliningrad Muslims then sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to intervene on their behalf given that they have been trying to gain final approval for a mosque in the capital of their oblast for 21 years (newkaliningrad.ru/news/community/4084643-kaliningradskie-musulmane-putinu-tsukanov-obyavil-voynu-tem-kto-ispoveduet-islam.html).


            In their appeal to the Kremlin leader, they also asked him to “remove from office those who are sowing hostility between the two confessions and between the fraternal peoples of Russia.” Apparently, Putin has not done anything in response, and now the situation in Kaliningrad may be on the brink of an explosion few saw coming.

Window on Eurasia: Another Lenin Down, but How Many More Remain?

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 29 – The demolition of the statue of Lenin in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has attracted international attention, with some seeing this as a provocation by one or another side in the war in Ukraine and others viewing it as an indication of the maturation of the Ukrainian revolution and a sign of the final divorce of Ukraine from Russia.


            But this latest destruction of a statue of the founder of the Soviet state -- the 390th to be taken down in Ukraine over the last two years (euromaidanpress.com/2014/09/28/kharkiv-lenin-statue-bites-the-dust-marks-number-390-in-list-of-toppled-lenins-in-ukraine/) -- ought to prompt two larger questions: How many more Lenins are there; and, far more important, what does it mean that they are still around 20 years after the system he founded died?


            The exact number of such statues is unknown, but it is certainly in the tens of thousands.  According to one count in 2012, there were “about 1800” in the Russian Federation alone, not counting “up to 20,000 busts,” the mausoleum in Red Square, and some 5,000 streets bearing his name (anvictory.org/blog/2012/01/09/lenin-v-i-v-otnoshenii-russkix-strelyat-i-veshat/).


            In other former Soviet bloc countries and former Soviet republics, there are even more, although their numbers continue to decline as more people learn about the crimes Lenin committed and especially as religious leaders focus on his efforts to destroy religion and extirpate Russian national traditions.


            But there is one discernable pattern about the demise of Lenin statues: When the Soviet system was viewed as an occupation rather than an organic part of national history, such as the Eastern European countries and the formerly occupied Baltic states, there are very few Lenins left and these countries have made the greatest progress toward democracy and freedom.


            Where statues of Lenin continue to be viewed as an integral part of the national experience either to be tolerated or celebrated depending upon the country involved, with more Russians than anyone else prepared to view the founder of the Soviet state as a hero now, often for the un-Leninist reason that he kept the Russian empire from disintegrating in 1917.


            And in these countries, there has been much less progress toward democracy and freedom and must less progress toward a modern economy, with economic growth far more anemic except in those which have significant amounts of natural resources that they can sell to other countries.


            Obviously, Lenin statues are a symptom rather than a cause of this pattern, but the demise of the large on in Kharkiv suggests three conclusions which it would be well for everyone to keep in mind going forward:


            First, except for a very few true communists, Lenin has become the symbol of the Russian empire rather than of any radical social transformation.  Both those who are taking down statues of him, such as the Ukrainians, and those who oppose them, including many in Moscow, clearly view him in this way. 


            Second, the Lenin statues, which were part of a broader Lenin cult, were in fact totems of a terrorist transformed into a god and thus one of the clearest indications of just how evil the Soviet system was and how great a burden it still places on the peoples who were subject to its crimes.


            And third, the fight over the statues of Lenin 23 years after the USSR disappeared and communists declared themselves to be something else shows how unwilling the West was to face up to the evil of that system and to demand that the losers of the cold war de-communize themselves as part of the settlement.


            Instead in the name of not offending their new "partners," costing themselves access to new markets, and putting additional burdens on themselves to complete the job of the cold war, Western leaders proclaimed victory and ignored the ways in which some parts of the Soviet inheritance could haunt the world if they did nothing.


            The Ukrainians won a victory in that struggle by taking down the statue of Lenin in Kharkiv. At the very least, they have helped to separate themselves still more from what Ronald Reagan properly called “the evil empire.”  Their victory should be celebrated and others encouraged to emulate it rather than be second guessed by those who fear offending Moscow.

Window on Eurasia: Nearly Half of Russians Want to Send Refugees from Ukraine Back, New Poll Shows

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 29 – Despite the propaganda victories Moscow has reaped from the presence of refugees from Ukraine in Russia and even the profits some Russian businesses have made from them (centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1411935840), 45 percent of Russians now say the refugees should be sent back as soon as conditions permit, according to a new VTsIOM poll.


            That figure is up from 39 percent in a June poll, and that increase is mirrored by a fall in the share of Russians who say that their country should do everything it can to provide refugees from Ukraine favorable living conditions, with 40 percent saying that now, compared to 50 percent in June (nr2.com.ua/News/world_and_russia/Polovina-rossiyan-hotyat-otpravit-ukrainskih-bezhencev-obratno-81023.html).


            Even more striking, seven percent of Russians surveyed say that the refugees should be sent back as fast as possible rather than waiting until conditions in the eastern portions of Ukraine from which the refugees fled stabilizes.


            Those Russians who have had direct contact with refugees appear less sympathetic to them than do others lacking such experiences. Thus, 66 percent of Russians who haven’t seen any refugees in their cities favor simplified procedures for the refugees to gain Russian citizenship. Of those who have had such contact, only 41 percent back that idea.


            Indeed, the larger the influx of refugees, the more opposed Russians are to allowing them to gain citizenship and stay.  Among Russians who have observed a large number of refugees in their regions, 48 percent oppose simplified citizenship procedures, the VTsIOM poll found. Most of those surveyed report that there are at least some refugees in their regions or cities, but almost one in five – 18 percent – say that there aren’t any at all.


            Two-thirds of the sample say that Russia is today providing refugees from Ukraine “all the necessary help, but a quarter – 24 percent – say that it is giving them too much. Those who feel that way are most often found among those with lower incomes (30 percent) and in places where there are a large number of refugees (28 percent).


            Only one in 25 – four percent – said that Russia isn’t doing enough for the refugees from the war zone.


            On the one hand, these results are certainly not surprising: such refugee fatigue has affected many people around the world. But on the other, they must be worrisome to the Kremlin because popular attitudes about the refugees may be a more accurate measure of how Russians feel about the war.


            And to the extent that Russians are less and less willing to support the refugees, such attitudes may put some pressure on Moscow to try to arrange things so that the refugees can return home rather than remain where they are now and become a trigger for popular anger at the Kremlin.

Window on Eurasia: Putin Increasing Risk of Regional Separatism by Ending Mayoral Elections, Novocherkassk Commentator Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 29 – Vladimir Putin’s decision to end direct elections for mayors in the name of increasing central control will in fact have the opposite effect, Roman Revunov says, because it will allow governors to amass unprecedented power and be in a position to challenge Moscow or even lead their regions out of the Russian Federation.


            In a commentary on Kasparov.ru today, the Novocherkassk blogger argues that those who assume that Putin can control the situation in every case by removing any governors before they are in a position to act in this way are wrong because doing so could trigger even more instability in key locations (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=54291E9C5FADD).


            According to Revunov, “besides everything else, direct elections of mayors defends the regions from the extraordinary concentration of power in the hands of the governor,” something that in Russian conditions is “a very important function” and one that Putin will override only at peril to himself and the country as a whole.


            “This week in Russia, “there is becoming less democracy and more separatism,” Revunov says, but from an unexpected source: Moscow is pushing the regions to end the direct election of mayors lest someone from the opposition win and instead seeking to have the mayors chosen in effect by the regional governors.


            That may seem a small change given that Putin has already eliminated the direct election of the heads of federation subjects, and as long as the center had money flowing in from the sale of oil and gas abroad, it may have been now more than that, Revunov says. But now the situation has changed, the money has run out, and that is affecting regional power arrangements.


            Here is why that is the case, the Novocherkassk writer continues.  “Let us imagine a situation in which a certain influential corporation” is able to “purchase” from the Kremlin a governorship for “some wealthy oil and gas region or some poor but border region or indeed in any of them.”


            Under the new system which Putin is pushing, “approximately a year or 18 months later, the new baron will be able to replace the mayors of significant municipalities with his own people.”  And having done so, the question will arise: “who really will run the province of our happy kingdom – the little father tsar or the governor in his name?”


            It seems fairly clear, Revunov says, that it will be the governor. After all, “Moscow is far away and the governor is here with all his own people.”


            To the extent that is true, he continues, “the elimination of direct elections in favor of the appointment of mayors represents a very suitable instrument for the formation of a system of personal power of governors in the regions and as a result a reduction of their loyalty to the central government.”


            Such a governor may decide that he has more to gain from building ties with foreign states such as Japan or China than for maintaining them with Moscow, especially if they are able to provide him with more money than the central Russian government can.


            Some people assume that Putin will be able to sense this sufficiently well in advance to be able to declare that the governor has lost his trust and then remove him, but in the worst case, “will the regional baron allow himself to be removed?” Or might he seek “protection” from “our Chinese partners” or someone else?


            As the center’s ability to redistribute resources declines because the amount of resources at its command falls, giving regional leaders the power to appoint mayors “is a very risky step,” Revunov says, especially at a time when loyalty ends when the money does and when “everything has become a question of price.”




Sunday, September 28, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Preparing to Play Citizenship Card in Estonia and Latvia

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 28 – Just as it did in Ukraine, Moscow is preparing again to play the citizenship card in Estonia and Latvia, muddying the waters as to who is “a Russian” and who is thus part of Vladimir Putin’s “Russian world” and worthy of Moscow’s defense whether any of them want that “defense” or not.


            In the case of Ukraine, the Russian government at various points over the last six months has included in what Putin calls “the Russian world” “citizens of the Russian Federation,” “ethnic Russians regardless of citizenship,” “Russian speakers,” and those who identify with Russia regardless of their ethnicity, language, or citizenship.


            Now as it steps up the pressure against the Baltic countries, Moscow is again using a highly elastic definition of who is part of the Russian world and who is not, something that must be understood and acknowledged if the Baltic countries and their supporters are going to be in a position to turn back Moscow’s efforts to subvert, destabilize and otherwise move against them.


            An article by Nadezhda Yermolayeva in “Rossiiskaya gazeta” last week with the headline “Residents of Latvia are taking Russian citizenship in great numbers” provides both an indication of the direction the Russian government is moving and also the flexible way it is defining who is part of Putin’s “Russian world” (rg.ru/2014/09/24/grajdanstvo-site-anons.html).


            But even more valuable, although this was certainly not Yermolayeva’s intent, the article also provides important guidance on what the Baltic governments and their supporters in Europe may now face and should do lest the Kremlin leader succeed in so muddying the waters that many do not respond to his aggression until what may be too late.


            According to Yermolayeva, “every 50th resident of Latvia is a citizen of Russia,” and their number is “growing from year to year.”  And she says that specialists say that citizens of Latvia as well as non-citizens are now taking Russian citizenship, something that one of her contacts said “the Latvian authorities ought to be thinking about.”


Some are doing so for purely economic reasons: the retirement age in Latvia rising and by changing citizenship some people can get pensions sooner. But more is involved than that, she suggests, noting that the number of people taking Russian citizenship now is especially large in Latgale, “the easternmost and poorest region” of the country.


According to the statistics Yermolayeva gives, 13 percent of the population of Latvia are not citizens of that country. That amounts to 288,000 people. In most cases, these are people who were moved into Latvia while it was occupied by the Soviet Union and thus could not qualify for citizenship under international law.


Many of these people are loyal to Latvia but resent the idea that they should have to apply for citizenship rather than gain it automatically, Yermolayeva says. But intriguingly she adds that such people are in some ways “the most privileged” group in the region because they have the right to travel freely in Europe and without a visa to Russia.


 “In neighboring Estonia,” the Moscow journalist continues, “the number of ‘non-citizens’ is lower than in Latvia” – only seven percent of the population is in that category. But at the same time, the number of Russian citizens is higher” – seven percent according to the Baltic Institute for Social Science.


The reason for this difference in the balance of persons without citizenship and those with Russian citizenship, the Moscow journalist continues, is a product of different decisions of the two countries in the 1990s. But it has important consequences: in Estonia, there are no “powerful and independent Russian-language political parties,” but in Latvia, there are.


Window on Eurasia: Russian Occupation Authorities Increase Terror Against Crimean Population, Crimean Tatar Leader Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 28 – The Russian occupation authorities not only have imposed “systematic discrimination” against the Crimean Tatar people but have conducted mass searches against them and their institutions and organized or looked the other way in cases of kidnaping and disappearances, according to Refat Chubarov, the head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis.


            Russian officials like Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov say, Chubarov wrote in his blog today, that the Crimean Tatars have all the rights other “citizens of the Russian Federation” have and that he has “not heard about any serious problems.” But reports about such “problems” are available to anyone who is willing to listen (echo.msk.ru/blog/chubarov_refat/1408454-echo/).


            On Saturday evening local time, two young Crimean Tatars were abducted by unknown assailants and have disappeared.  Their families and friends immediately informed the force structures, the police and the FSB who said they would check but apparently have done nothing of the kind, Chubarov said.


            But given that “the FSB has established total control over all society” and follows “practically every resident of Crimea,” the Crimean Tatar leader said, it is impossible to believe that the Russian occupiers couldn’t say who had committed this latest act of force against the Crimean Tatars.


            And yet another reason for skepticism about Russian statements concerning the rights and protection of the Crimean Tatars, Chubarov continued, is the protection the occupiers have been given to the illegal actions of the self-proclaimed “detachments of ‘Crimean Self-Defense.’”  As a result of this pattern, he said, Crimean society is being subjected ever more to real terror.



Window on Eurasia: ‘Administered Chaos’ Latest Russian Conspiracy Theory, Kagarlitsky Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 28 – Given that Russians increasingly have “ceased to believe” in scholarship and turned to conspiracy theories of one kind or another, Boris Kagarlitsky says, it is perhaps not surprising that many of them including many in the Russian government have accepted the latest example of such theories, that of “administered chaos.”


            And like so many other such theories, the director of the Moscow Institute of Globalization and Social Movements says, they have “borrowed” it from the West where this notion has “periodically surfaced in the writing of both left-wing and right-wing radicals” (rabkor.ru/likbez/2014/09/25/myth-of-controlled-chaos).


 But as also often happened, he continues, in “a paradoxical way,” in Russia the notion of “administered chaos” has been taken up primarily by conservatives and other defenders of the existing order, who have repeated it so often that others have fallen under its influence typically with sad consequences.


            The concept is simple in the extreme, he says, which may account for its popularity.  According to its backers, “the United States, now in crisis, is trying to compensate for its weakness by destabilizing the rest of the world.” But by some miracle, the US is “always able to preserve control over the situation” and use it to Washington’s advantage.


            For Russian exponents of this view, “the most dangerous form of chaos and destabilization” consists of revolutions, but because they believe that, they fail to distinguish between revolutions which spring from the state of any particular society and those which are sponsored from outside.  As a result, for them, “all revolutions” are created by the US.


            Of course, Kagarlitsky says, there is some evidence for this notion. If there weren’t, no one would accept it. But there is a fundamental problem: much of the instability in the world reflects factors other than American influence, and the US often isn’t able to deal with that any better than anyone else. In fact, for Washington, things are becoming “ever more difficult.”


            Some Western writers but few Russian ones have suggested that “there are objective limits” to administered chaos. But while that may be true, “chaos as such never was administered in the sense in which conspiracy theorists have understood it.” It is possible to “influence” chaos, “at times quite effectively,” but it is impossible to do so in entirely predictable ways.


            If the situations were otherwise, they would not be chaos, Kagarlitsky points out.


            What in fact the US has been doing, he suggests, is pursuing a foreign policy that is intended to reduce to a minimum the problems disorder can cause for the United States.  That policy has two principles: “‘empires have no permanent friends only continuing interests’” and “‘one must not put all one’s eggs in one basket.’”


            Washington shifted to that approach at the end of the 1970s, copying much of it from the British.  Instead of saying it will defend anyone “to the last” in the name of fighting communism, the US began to bob and weave, backing now one side and then another as the balance of strength shifted.


            At present, this flexibility reflects the combination of two principles, Kagarlitsky says. On the one hand, Washington is prepared to “support any authoritarian regime” in the name of fighting terrorism. But on the other, it has not given up the idea of promoting “more democracy” anywhere or restricting itself as to “the ways and means” of doing so.


            The British did this with great success, but the Americans have done so with much less, he continues. The reason is that “the present-day American State Department does not have either the experience of that diplomatic culture which was always characteristic for the British foreign office.”


            “The foreign policy of the British Empire, even while being extremely cynical, permitted it to maintain its reputation while avoiding accusations of a complete lack of principles,” the Moscow analyst says. The Americans have been much less successful in that regard.  Their “imperialism” simply isn’t as skillful as that of the British in the past.


            As a result, he says, the US has suffered “practically an uninterrupted series of defeats in all directions of world policy,” but because of its “unprincipled flexibility and willingness constantly to change allies and spend enormous sums,” Washington often has been able to conceal its losses, especially among those who believe in the doctrine of administered chaos.


            This can’t go on forever, Kagarlitsky says, and he suggests that “it is completely possible that precisely the events which are taking place now in Ukraine and in Russia will in this sense prove to be a turning point” which Russians will be able to see if they give up their fascination with conspiracy theories.