Thursday, December 31, 2015

Buryat Shamans Predict Radical Changes in 2016 with Improved Conditions in Siberia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 31 – Many who give little thought to predicting the future the rest of the year nonetheless focus on that task at the end of one year and the beginning of the next, but one group that is involved with this task much of the time seldom gets much play in the Moscow media.

            That is made up of shamans, an important social force in many republics, and as this year ends and a new one dawns, the shamans of the Buryat religious organization Tengeri are predicting that the next year will be full of many changes, including improvements in Siberia (

            Bair Tsyrendorzhiyev, the head of the Tengeri group says not next year but in the following one, the current crisis will pass and abundance will return. “But for the good life, one must pay and lose something, and this could be both human lives and economic losses” of one kind or another.

            In shamanism, he explains, there are “three tragedies: fire, flooding and war.” They are especially dangerous because they sow death without regard to those involved.  The fires of the last year in the Baikal region should cause people “to reflect why namely in the sacred space around Baikal came such a tragedy.”

            He said that despite all the problems in the economy and with the fires, 2015 had been filled with successes as far as the shaman movement is concerned.  His group has opened branches in Omsk and St. Petersburg and organized 14 meetings of shamans, attracting them and other interested people from Europe and the US.

            Buryatia now has about 12 shaman religious groups, the largest of any republic in the Russian Federation except for Tyva where shamanism is even more widespread. The Buryat shamans hope to complete the building of their religious center, “The Gates of Heaven,” during the next 12 months.

            Tsyrendorzhiyev told the meida that he hopes that despite the crisis, people will be able to preserve their spiritual wealth because “spiritual wealth will ultimately materialize.” 

Mental Crisis at Home Not Sanctions behind Russia’s Economic Malaise, Yakovlev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 31 – The loss by members of the Russian elite of a positive model for the future is a more important factor behind the country’s current economic malaise than the fall in the price of oil or the imposition of sanctions and counter-sanctions, according to Andrey Yakovlev, a senior analyst at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

            And if the Kremlin does not come up with a positive scenario for the future soon, he suggests, elite expectations of a catastrophe will be transformed into a self-fulfilling prophecy” (

            “The current situation in the Russian economy is a clear illustration of the ways in which a crisis in people’s heads leads to a crisis in reality,” Yakovlev says.  Indeed, “one of the main results of 2014-2015 is that any idea about an ideal model of the development of the country, which the elite had in the early 2000s finally disappeared.”

            That was the product of developments going back more than a decade.  In 2007, the notion that “an economically strong Russia could aspire to participate in the administration of the world” formed the basis of Vladimir Putin’s Munich speech and reflected the choice of many in the government in business of a kind of South Korean model.

            But the crisis which began in 2008 “showed that this was not the case.”  More than that, it showed that the power vertical was not nearly as functional as many thought. And that in turn led in the fall of that year to the collapse of the expectations of many in business and in the state about the future, a collapse that continues to this day.

            This lack of confidence led on the one hand to a new wave of capital flight and on the other to ever harsher government pressure on business as the regime tried to make up for its losses.  That in turn contributed to the eight percent fall in Russia’s GDP in 2009, but it became obvious that both sides had less and less room for maneuver.

            “The main goal” of Putin’s anti-crisis policy at that time was “the support of social stability,” and to that end, he increased pensions and budgetary spending so that even though the GDP was falling, personal incomes in most cases were not, Yakovlev says.

            In 2009-2011, Dmitry Medvedev made an effort to change things and to restore a dialogue with business, which pointed to the formation of “a new contract between the authorities and business – investment and economic growth on the basis of successful mid-sized companies in exchange for an improvement of the business environment.”

            These measures “gave a definite effect, but the political events of 2011 and the reaction of the authorities to them turned out to be much more significant for economic actors.”  From their perspective, the power vertical was beginning to shake; and Putin’s political mobilization of the population did not moderate those concerns.

            And thus, “from 2012 on, various branches of the powers that be, in particular the economic block of the government and the force agencies in essence were conducting mutually exclusive policies which only intensified the negative expectations in the elite” and led to even more capital flight.

            This split in the minds of the elite was no accident, Yakovlev continues. “It arose fromteh loss by the current power elite of a vision of the future. All our state propaganda of the last three years has been about the past,” and the elite feels it does not have any “positive idea which it could propose to society.”

            In many respects, he says, this situation resembles the one the Soviet Union found itself in 1968 after sending forces into Czechoslovakia and freezing reforms at home, two actions which marked “the ideological defeat of the USSR.” But this divided consciousness wasn’t restricted to the political elite: it has affected business and the opposition as well.

            Russia has the basis for a strong and rapidly growing economy, according to Yakovlev, but what is preventing that is “above all a deep distrust between business and the authorities.” Neither has a clear sense of what the future should be and each distrusts the ability of the other to come up with one.

            There is precedent for the two sides coming together and reaching an agreement. It happened in the early 2000s and was close to happening after 2009.  But the situation now is more difficult and any outcome will depend on the judgment of the force structures about whether “the military-political ambitions of Russia are unrealizable without a sufficient economic base” and whether they can offer a detailed “’model of the future’” for Russia.

            “We are now at a fork in the road,” Yakovlev concludes. For a certain period, Russia can avoid making a clear choice, but “such balancing itself generates negative expectations and therefore it can hardly last for a long time” because the longer it lasts, the more these expectations are likely to become “self-fulfilling prophecies.”

Putin’s Latest Move Seen Putting Russia at Risk of a Second Bloody Sunday Massacre

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 31 – Vladimir Putin’s signing into law a measure permitting the FSB to shoot into crowds not only has sparked fears that this represents the rebirth of the KGB ( but also that it makes likely a replay of the 1905 Bloody Sunday events that destroyed the links between tsar and people and sparked revolution.

            The Bloody Sunday massacre on January 22, 1905, is the infamous incident in which a group of Russians led by priests were massacred in Palace Square in St. Petersburg where they had gone to petition the government to address their grievances.  The shootings marked both the beginning of the 1905 revolution but also a period of mass repression.

            And Putin’s action, Vasily Kudanenko suggests, in a commentary on, recalls those events because it comes just before that anniversary and also the anniversary of decisions by Nicholas II to employ official violence across the country in the hope of pacifying Russia and saving his throne (

            In the short term, the communist commentator says, unprecedented repression worked as the authorities intended, ending the 1905 revolution and ushering in a brief period of superficial stability and real growth but not removing revolution from the agenda and indeed playing a role alongside World War I in bringing about the 1917 revolutions of February and October.

            Consequently, while Putin’s action may buy him and his regime a little time, the commentator suggests, it won’t put off the final reckoning. Indeed, like the moves of Nicholas II a little over a century ago, it may have the effect of accelerating history and making that reckoning all the more violent and fateful.