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8:11 AM 11/27/2017 – Russia Blogs: Kremlins Promotion of Imperial Identity Precludes Rise of Civic Russian One

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1. Russia Blogs from mikenova (58 sites)
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russias Regions and Republics Now have More Medals and Awards Now than in Yeltsins Time
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putins Language Policies Offending Russians Almost as Much as Non-Russians
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Russia Expels Polish Historian Without Explanation
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Ukrainian Police Detain 60 People At Gathering Of Mafia Bosses
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Romanians March Again To Protest Moves To Revamp Judicial System
Russian Defense Policy: Iskander-M in Kaliningrad
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Kosovar Leader Haradinaj Condemns Grenade Attack On Homes Of Ethnic Serbs
oD Russia: Georgia: another revolution was possible
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Islamist Group Says Will Call Off Islamabad Protests After Deal With Government
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Russia, U.S., Britain Aid Search For Missing Argentine Submarine
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Monitor Group Says Russian Air Strikes Kill 53 Civilians In Syria
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Videos Of Detainees Seen As Attempts By Iran To Pressure U.S., U.K. Governments
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Ukraine Suffered the Most Deaths in the Holodomor but Kazakhstan had the Highest Percentage Loss of Population
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Chechnya’s Kadyrov Says Time Has Come For Him To Step Aside
Russia News: Attacks by Syrian government outside Damascus kill 22: Activists
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Albanian President In Unofficial Visit To Southern Serbia Town
Russia News: FBI didn’t tell US targets as Russian hackers hunted emails
Window on Eurasia — New Series: To Finance Putins Military Build-Up, Moscow Cuts Spending on Economy and Pensioners
Window on Eurasia — New Series: There Could Be a Siberian Khalifate in Russias Future

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1. Russia Blogs from mikenova (58 sites)
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russias Regions and Republics Now have More Medals and Awards Now than in Yeltsins Time
Paul Goble
Staunton, November 26 Many people assume that Vladimir Putin has wiped out national and regional aspirations for greater autonomy or even independence by his tough laws against any questioning of the external borders of the Russian Federation; but in fact, that is not the case, Vladimir Voronov says.
In a commentary for Radio Liberty, the Russian commentator says that the rise of government awards in the regions, of republic citizenship, and of regional armies and ethnic battalions all suggest that much is going on just below the radar screen of Russian awareness (
With regard to medals and orders, Voronov says, Russian law is clear: only the president of the country can give these out; but in fact, many leaders of republics and regions do as well. And it is clear that the poorer the region and the more federal aid it receives, the more developed is the awards system and the more is spent on them.
Even a brief glance at local medal and order statistics undercuts the widespread notion that separatist attitudes were widespread during the parade of sovereignties of the Yeltsin era but then order has been restored.  In fact, the situation is exactly the reverse, the commentator continues.
Under Yeltsin, nine regions and in that case, they were all national republics — created only one hero order, 12 other orders, and four medals.  But now under Putin, no fewer than 45 regions have done so, almost all of the non-Russian republics and many predominantly Rusisan oblasts and krays as well.
There are at least 62 orders with varying degrees of honor, no fewer than 163 medals, and four gold stars of regional heroes which are practically exact copies of the [Russian] states Gold Stars, Voronov says.
This is the tip of the iceberg, he continues. Many non-Russian republics still retain constitutions that talk about citizenship for a once and future independent state. And perhaps most worrisome, some have de factonational armies. Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya has one and he not Putin issues draft calls for the Russian army there.
Officials and commentators in Tatarstan discussed forming a military many years ago, and Voronov implies they may be ready to do so again when times seem propitious. More worrisome now, he suggests, is the formation of what is de facto an ethnic military unit within the Russian Army in Tyva, the homeland of defense minister Sergey Shoygu.
There, Tuvans make up more than 85 percent of the brigade; and there are proposals to create a special religious advisor for the unit, someone who because the Tuvans are Buddhist or animist almost certainly will be a Buddhist leader or perhaps even a shaman (
Voronov is opposed to all of this, and what is perhaps most remarkable about his article is not his centralizing and even imperial views on Russia but the fact that his argument appeared on the Radio Liberty website, a place many in Moscow view as a source of support for regionalist and nationalist movements within the current borders of the Russian Federation.
Window on Eurasia — New Series
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putins Language Policies Offending Russians Almost as Much as Non-Russians
Paul Goble
Staunton, November 26 Not surprisingly, Vladimir Putins insistence that no non-Russian language should be a required subject in schools in the Russian Federation has offended and angered many non-Russians who see it as an attack on a core part of their identities and even a threat to their existence.
But the way this principle is being applied isnt making a large number of Russians happy either because education officials are now insisting that Russian not be called a native language in schools but only a state language, something many Russians see as an attack on their identity and a threat as well (/
In Yekaterinburg, the URA news agency reports, school administrators have called for the development of a new curriculum for Russian that will not call Russian a native language lest that offend representatives of other peoples but only a state language, a shift that has offended Russians who view it as native to themselves (
According to URA journalists Lev Istomin and Oleg Teploukov, the officials propose introducing two different subjects: Russian language as the state language and Russian as a native language for those who consider it to be native. Experts and commentators are dismissive of this idea and its consequences.
Aleksey Kushnir, editor of Narodnoye obozreniye, says he is certain that such innovations will not bring any good.  Today, Russian and non-Russian languages arent being taught well; and the public needs to be involved in any such change rather than officials assuming they can simply decree it.
Georgy Zharkoy, editor of RSP-Ekspert, says that the move will have even worse consequences than the current situation does. Dividing a language into native and non-native can sharpen inter-ethnic relations in the country by giving rise to a sense of injustice and injury among both groups.
Aleksanpdr Buzgalin, an economist at Moscow State University, says that in order not to cause a social split, one should divide Russian into two subjects only in regions with a multi-national population, for example, in the non-Russian republics.
In a number of republics of the Russian Federation, Russian is not a native language for a large number of residents. In some, Russian isnt taught enough, and the state language needs to be promoted. But introducing new rules in those regions where people in fact do not speak other languages is senseless.
Window on Eurasia — New Series
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kremlins Promotion of Imperial Identity Precludes Rise of Civic Russian One, Emil Pain Says
Paul Goble
Staunton, November 26 Since the early 1990s, the Kremlin has promoted the revival of an imperial identity among Russians, something that precludes anytime soon the development of a civic Russian one, according to Emil Pain, a leading Russian specialist on ethnic conflict at Moscows Higher School of Economics.
In a new book written with his student Sergey Fedyunin, Nation and Democracy: Prospects for the Administration of Cultural Diversity (in Russian, Moscow,2017), Pain argues that Russian liberals, having rejected the idea of the nation have not been able to
Formulate an image of the future which a large portion of Russians share.
Instead, he continues, they have watched in many cases seemingly passively as the Russian government since the early 1990s and especially since 2000 has revived the notion of empire that by itself makes impossible not only the development of Russian ethnic identity but of Russian democracy.
The Open Russia portal has now posted on line the chapter in Pain and Fedyunins book on The Intentional Reconstruction of Imperial Consciousness: Stages and Mechanisms in which the ethnic specialist makes this argument by tracing changes in Russian identity since the end of Soviet times (
Post-Soviet Russia can serve as an obvious case of how imperial consciousness has literally been imposed on a society. When the Soviet Union fell apart, few Russians felt they had lost anything by the exit of the non-Russian union republics. According to polls in 1993, for example, only 16 percent expressed the slightest signs of regret about that.
Instead, Russians overwhelmingly saw themselves as becoming part of the West, and only some marginal figures, invoking the will of the people without the slightest basis, promoted a special Russian path or imperial revival.  But as the difficulties of making the transition became clearer, by the mid-1990s, this positive view of the West began to erode.
By 2001, two Russians out of three agreed with the statement that the Western variant of social organization in one way or another is not suitable for Russian conditions and contradicts the way of life of the Russian people.  And that was true not only despite but because changes in Russia were less than for example in Poland or the Baltic countries.
Changes happened there because re-entering Europe was the core national idea, Pain continues; but in Russia, there was no such defense mechanism in popular consciousness: the movement toward Europe was not a goal in and of itself: On the contrary, this idea depended on several others.
As a result, he says, by 1990, another thesis had become popular [in Russia]: Sovialism was not so bad; rather its leaders were bad, and by the beginning of the 2000s, even the Soviet leaders were being rehabilitated. The return of Stalin from dismissive contempt to a central hero is a clear case of this.
Because of the difficulties of the 1990s, traditional Soviet stereotypes arose among many Russians including the notion that stability and order are only possible with authoritarian rulers.  But that didnt happen automatically. Instead, it was actively promoted by the political elite for its own purposes.
As a result, in 2002, for the first time in 15 years the disintegration of the USSR was viewed by respondents [to VTsIOM polls] as the chief and most dramatic event of this entire period.  And along with this, Pain suggests, Russians rapidly revived the enemies the Soviet Union had.
In 1991, only 12 percent of those questioned considered the West (above all the US) an enemy; in 1994, already 41 percent did; and in 1999, at the time of the bombing of Belgrade, almost two-thirds 65 percent viewed the US as an enemy. By 2014, this hostility to the West became almost total.
This growth of hostility toward the West is not connected in mass consciousness with the revival of Soviet aspects of life in Russia, Pain says.  Rather most of them thought in the following way: Well weve changed and become a democracy, but the West as before doesnt love us [because of its] inborn Russophobia.
Alongside the return of Soviet consciousness in Russia at the end of the 1990s was gradually rehabilitated the idea of the empire in its pre-Soviet version. And while the country was called a federation, it has acquired (or more precisely restored) aspects of an imperial system.
That represents a clear departure from Soviet times when Russians had been taught that empires and imperialism were by definition evil and to be rejected. But it reflected the efforts of people like Aleksandr Dugin and Aleksandr Prokhanov to promote the idea that a Russian empire was a good thing and should be revived.
But it arose in popular consciousness less because of their ideas than because empire became a business brand, the name of the most popular kinds of vodka, a designation for the best classes of hotels, and even a term to capture the best of taste or spirit.  And the neo-imperial style became dominant in architecture and city planning.
This imperial consciousness began to exert significant influence on political life and leading to the revival of imperial aspects in the political life of Russia, the ethnic specialist continues.
The only way this trend can be opposed, Pain says, is by redefining the nation in a civic sense and rejecting its traditional mythologization. But for that to happen, he argues, Russians must first define who they are in relation to power subjects or sovereigns because unless that happens and in an imperial system, it cant no redefinition will matter.
The development of the concept of civic nationalism requires the opening of the path for the transformation of society on the basis of liberal values, constitutionalism, and democracy. But given the current imperial consciousness, any discussion of this cant be taken entirely seriously.
Today, he writes, Russia suffers from the reproduction of the model of imperial nationalism which gives the country instruments from the past which are unsuitable for life in the contemporary world.  And one cant count on a positive evolution of Russian nationalism in this situation.
What Russians call imperialism is in fact post-imperial consciousness, which includes nostalgia for the times of classical empires, resentment, and various kinds of political fears. It is characteristic not only for Russian state power supporters but also for representatives of various ethnic communities.
But it can and must be challenged head on because the liberal opposition, as the numbers taking part in demonstrations show, is more prepared for self-organization than are the Russian nationalists.
Tragically, etatism in essence is paralyzing social activity, but civic indifference is compensated for by the cult of the leader and the mythologization of the people as ours. At the same time, however, there is hope because of the nature of the imperial consciousness now on public view.
The very fact that imperial consciousness [in Russia today] does not have a clear ethnic dimension and is not translated via the channels of cultural tradition but rather is formed under the influence of socio-political circumstances and direct construction indicates that there is a chance for the radical reprogramming of such mass consciousness.
That may require a major national trauma as was the case with Germany or it may occur as a result of evolutionary processes as was the case in France.  But it isnt something likely to be immediate in Russia because at present there is not a single political force which is capable of beginning the deconstruction of imperial consciousness.
Window on Eurasia — New Series
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Russia Expels Polish Historian Without Explanation
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By John Helmer, Moscow Evasion of French taxes is the criminal case against Suleiman Kerimov (lead image, rear left), who was jailed in Nice on November 20; indicted two days later; then released on 5 million in bail, his passport confiscated and his freedom curtailed by French police surveillance which may last for years, before […]Dances With Bears
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Russian Defense Policy: Iskander-M in Kaliningrad
It’s always been clear Moscow would deploy new Iskander-M SRBMs in its Baltic exclave Kaliningrad. Now it has.Iskander-M comes to Kaliningrad
The folks at CAST posted the news to their blog on Saturday. They were impressively attentive to the military press while yours truly remained in a slothful tryptophan-induced post-Thanksgiving stupor.
Let’s look at what CAST saw.
On November 23, KZ wrote that the next “brigade set” of Iskander-M missiles has just been handed over to a missile formation from the Western MD. The MOD paper noted that Colonel Anatoliy Gorodetskiy commands the brigade in question. That is the 152nd Missile Brigade based at Chernyakhovsk in Kaliningrad. For now, the formation is still practicing with its new equipment on the range at Kapustin Yar.
As CAST noted, this is the eleventh “brigade set” delivered to Russian ground forces.
Iskander-M SRBMs in Kaliningrad can reach targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, even southern Sweden
With reported 500-km range from Kaliningrad, the Iskander-M can cover targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, and southern Sweden. If armed with cruise missiles (SSC-8 or Russian designator 9M729), their reach is much greater. Their 2,000-km or greater range allows them to strike targets close to Paris.
Why Now? Why Not?
Iskander-M in Kaliningrad was always just a question of timing.
Since at least 2014, the Russian Army has temporarily deployed Iskander-M launchers to Kaliningrad from the “mainland” for exercises.
As CAST reported, Jane’s Defence Weekly published photographs of characteristic “tent-mobile shelters” under construction for the new SRBMs at the Chernyakhovsk base in February.
But why now? Because the missiles and associated equipment have been produced and Moscow loses nothing at this point.
The Kremlin always said it could deploy the new SRBMs to its Baltic exclave to counter Aegis BMD (Aegis Ashore) in Poland slated for completion in 2018.
There are enhanced U.S. and NATO ground deployments to Poland to assure the easternmost allies in the wake of Russia’s occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Perhaps relevant here is the possibility the U.S. Congress will authorize DOD development of a new U.S. intermediate-range missile to answer Russia’s material breach of the 1987 INF Treaty.
And U.S.-Russian relations are the worst since the end of the Cold War.
Next Stop Kursk
CAST adds only the 448th Missile Brigade in Kursk remains armed with the late 1980s vintage Tochka-U (SS-21 / Scarab-B) SRBM. Kursk-based Iskander-M SRBMs deployed to launch positions in southwestern Russia will easily reach Kyiv, and central and eastern Ukraine.
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Russian Defense Policy
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Kosovar Leader Haradinaj Condemns Grenade Attack On Homes Of Ethnic Serbs
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oD Russia: Georgia: another revolution was possible
The turbulent but short-lived history of Georgia’s social democratic experiment has much to teach us.26 May 1918: National Council meeting, Tbilisi. Public Domain. The centenary of the Russian Revolution is re-opening debate about the troubled relationship between socialism and democracy, as historians highlight the crimes committed by Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. The land where Stalin was born, Georgia, was also the birthplace of a successful social-democratic experiment that was lauded by international statesmen but crushed by the Bolsheviks. The Georgians brave example deserves to be remembered to show that another revolution was possible.
In May 1918, six months after the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, the worlds first democratic socialist republic was created. In Georgia, the Mensheviks, or Social Democrats, found themselves ruling a country whose separation from Russia they had always opposed. But under pressure from the Bolsheviks to their north and the Turks to their south, they had no choice.
Their leader was Noe Zhordania. Like Stalin, who was ten years his junior, Zhordania got an unlikely-seeming introduction to revolutionary politics through his education at the Tiflis Theological Seminary. But unlike Stalin, Zhordania spent his formative years abroad, learning about politics and society from leading figures in Europes social-democratic and labor parties. When he returned to Georgia, he persuaded the local revolutionaries to embrace a very particular kind of Marxism, one with a strong European and democratic flavor.
Journalist and politician Noe Zhordania. Public Domain. Zhordania and his comrades started with a commitment to political freedom and human rights. Many political parties competed for power in Georgia, unlike in Russia where Lenin and the Bolsheviks outlawed opposition parties one by one, including dissident socialists. The Georgian republic upheld freedom of the press, freedom of association and universal suffrage (including for women).
The Social Democrats first priority was agrarian reform. Georgian peasants, like peasants across the former Russian empire, were land-poor. While the Russian Bolsheviks sent heavily armed troops to the countryside to seize food, Georgias Social Democrats seized land from wealthy landowners, the czarist state and the church, and gave it to the peasants. As a result, Georgia was never plagued, as Russia was, by endless warfare between country and city. And peasant support for the Social Democrats never wavered. The man behind the reform was Noe Khomeriki, who served as the countrys minister of agriculture.
In the cities, the Georgian government worked closely with labor unions to ensure that workers and their families were fed and cared for. Independent unions with a right to strike thrived, in sharp contrast to Bolshevik Russia where they were merely an appendage of the dictatorial state.
Consumer and producer cooperatives also prospered. Their rapid growth meant that in some sectors of the economy, they were overtaking traditional private businesses. Many Georgians saw cooperative enterprises as the building blocks of a new society.
In free elections held in 1919, the Social Democrats commanded overwhelming support. But one group never accepted the legitimacy of the young republic: the Georgian Bolsheviks. These members of Lenins Russian Communist Party worked tirelessly over three years to bring about the violent overthrow of the elected government in Tbilisi, Georgias capital.
In comparison with the hell which Soviet Russia represents, Georgia appeared as a paradise
There were two failed coup attempts. The second was followed by a peace agreement between Russias Soviet government and Georgia, which included a recognition of Georgian independence. The Georgians agreed to legalise the previously underground Communist Party and free jailed Bolsheviks; in return, the Communists agreed to behave themselves.
Security for the Georgian government was provided by a workers militia known as the Peoples Guard. Its commander was the ruthless Valiko Jugeli, who defended the countrys socialist government against Bolsheviks and other rebels with a fanaticism that was later severely criticised by the Soviet leader Trotsky, among others.
Ministers of the Georgian Democratic Republic. Wikipedia / Public Domain. In September 1920, a delegation of European democratic socialist leaders from the Second International visited Tbilisi. The party of visitors included Britains future Labour Party prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald; the most prominent figure was Karl Kautsky, from Germany.
The best-known Marxist of the day, Kautsky was known as the pope of socialism. He stayed on in Georgia for several weeks and wrote a short book about what he learned there. He called the Georgian Democratic Republic the antithesis to Bolshevism, and the other foreign delegates agreed that Georgia was carrying out an enormously significant experiment in democratic socialism.
It was not to last. In February 1921, the Russian Army invaded. Georgia did not fall easily, as Armenia and Azerbaijan had done. Weeks of bloody fighting followed before Tbilisi fell, and the Georgian government, with Zhordania still at its head, retreated to the port city of Batumi. There, on the shores of the Black Sea, the Georgian Constituent Assembly met for the last time and finalised the drafting of the countrys Constitution. It was a remarkable document, but it described a state that would never come into being.
Even with the evacuation of the Social Democratic leaders onto Allied ships for a life in exile, the Georgian struggle was not over. Three years later, Georgians rose up in a popular uprising in a desperate attempt to end Soviet Russian rule. And it nearly worked. Some leading Social Democrats, including Khomeriki, author of the agrarian reform, and Jugeli, commander of the Peoples Guard, returned from exile to lead the rebellion. But they were captured and executed, and the rebellion was drowned in blood.
If you want to know what democratic socialism looks like, study the Georgian experiment. That was democratic socialism
Leading the local Bolsheviks in their suppression of the rebels was a young Lavrenty Beria, the man who later became notorious as the ruthless head of Stalins secret police, the NKVD.
Exile abroad was not necessarily a safer option for the Georgian leaders. Noe Ramishvili, who had briefly served as head of the Georgian government, was murdered by a Soviet agent in France in 1930. But Zhordania survived. His exile in France lasted for more than three decades. He died in January 1953, aged 84 just a few weeks before the death of his former revolutionary comrade and later adversary, Stalin.
Soviet rule in Georgia survived them both by a few decades, with the country finally declaring independence again in 1991. When it did so, the 1921 Constitution was revived, the anniversary of the May 1918 declaration of independence was proclaimed a national holiday, and the red flag of the Georgian Mensheviks flew once again over the capital city of Tbilisi.
With the end of the Soviet Union, the Russians resumed their traditional, hostile role, supporting separatist movements in the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, leading to a full scale war in 2008. When the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, asked President Vladimir Putin what he was hoping to achieve by Russias attack on Georgia, Mr. Putin said he was going to hang Saakashvili by the balls, referring to Georgias president. It was something one could easily imagine Stalin saying about Zhordania.
Map of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, 1931-1943. Wikipedia / Public Domain.Georgias great experiment in democratic socialism had been crushed, but the Social Democrats key argument that an impoverished, backward society cannot skip historical stages and proceed straight to pure socialism was borne out. The Bolsheviks in their rush to create a Communist utopia imposed on millions the very opposite, and not only in Russia, but in China, North Korea, Cambodia and elsewhere. During their brief stint in power, the Georgian Social Democrats showed that a patient series of transformations was a far more promising preparation for an eventual transition to a socialist society. Above all, Georgias agrarian reform program offered a humane alternative to the Russian approach of forced collectivisation.
In comparison with the hell which Soviet Russia represents, wrote Kautsky, Georgia appeared as a paradise.
The society that the Georgian Social Democrats created was an inspiration to socialists at the time. As the years passed, however, and Soviet rule seemed to become permanent, their achievements seemed forgotten for decades. Yet the dream of a more equal, fair and free society persisted and found advocates in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Prague Spring of 1968 in Czechoslovakia, and in the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s.
That dream lives on as people look for alternatives to capitalism, while rejecting Stalinism. To paraphrase what Friedrich Engels said about the Paris Commune, if you want to know what democratic socialism looks like, study the Georgian experiment. That was democratic socialism.
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oD Russia
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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Ukraine Suffered the Most Deaths in the Holodomor but Kazakhstan had the Highest Percentage Loss of Population
Paul Goble
Staunton, November 26 Experts at the Kyiv Institute of Demography say that Ukrainian suffered the greatest number of excess deaths as a result of the Holodomor in 1932-33 3.9 million in all but that Kazakhstan suffered a higher percentage of population loss 22.4 percent as opposed to Ukraines 13.3 percent.
According to the Institute, there were approximately 8.7 million excess deaths in the USSR in those two years over what would have been expected given population trends at that time as a result of Stalins manmade famine (
Suggestions that there were seven, ten or even twelve million deaths in Ukraine are unjustified, the demographers say. The data do not support such claims.  It is justified to add to the losses the number of children one would have expected to be born but werent. In the case of Ukraine, that would be approximately 600,000 for that period.
That would bring the Ukrainian loss to 4.5 million. Most of these losses were among the peasantry, the demographers say; but approximately 300,000 urban Ukrainians died of hunger as well in those two years. In terms of losses in other republics, 3.2 percent of the population in the RSFSR died from hunger, 1.3 percent in Belarus, and fewer elsewhere in the USSR.
Within Ukraine itself, Kyiv and Kharkiv oblasts were hit particularly hard with a million deaths in each. There deaths in the rural areas amounted to 40 to 54 percent of the pre-famine population.  Elsewhere in Ukraine, the losses and percentages were significantly lower, the demographers continued.
The scholars also noted that the situation in Ukraine differed from other portions of the USSR in terms of a high concentration of deaths over a relatively short period of time. Some three million of the deaths occurred in the course of the first seven months of 1933, statistics show.
Window on Eurasia — New Series
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Window on Eurasia — New Series: To Finance Putins Military Build-Up, Moscow Cuts Spending on Economy and Pensioners
Paul Goble
Staunton, November 25 In the budget approved this week, the Russian government will spend 38 percent of its money on supporting the military and the police, increases to be paid for by significant cuts in spending on the economy as a whole and on pensioners in particular rather than by deficit spending. Indeed, the budget projects a decline in the size of the deficit next year.
The actual shift to the military and police is even larger than this, of course, because these figures reflect only the open part of the budget. But even the open amount has gone up significantly, by 260 billion rubles (4.5 billion US dollars) to 5.09 trillion rubles (85 billion (60 billion US dollars (
                To pay for this, social spending has been cut by 7.8 percent over all and pension spending by 12.9 percent, despite the economic crisis; and economic spending has been cut by 16.4 percent, a trend that will also worsen the countrys economic prospects despite spending on the military.
Officials hyped the fact that there was a slight cut 4.6 percent — in the amount allocated for government officials and small increases in spending on education up 4.9 percent and in spending on health care up 1.4 percent.  Federal spending in support of the regions is also slated to go up by 9.1 percent.
                But these figures may all be meaningless not only because of the closed portions of the budget and because the Russian budget is often revised but also because this budget, as Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said, is based on the assumption of GDP growth of two percent, a figure many independent experts do not expect the Russian economy to meet.
Indeed, the budget makes achieving that level even more difficult than one might expect because by cutting social spending and pensions, it will depress the purchasing power of the population, thus putting further downward pressure on the economy as a whole. No increase in military spending is likely to compensate for that.
Window on Eurasia — New Series
Window on Eurasia — New Series: There Could Be a Siberian Khalifate in Russias Future
Paul Goble
Staunton, November 25 The influx of Central Asian and Caucasian gastarbeiters into the oil and gas fields of the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District and Tyumen Oblast is creating ethnic conflicts which are proving to be the seedbeds for the growth of Islamic radicalism and even suggestions that there will be a Siberian khalifate in the future.
The situation is not yet out of control, Komsomolskaya Pravda journalist Dmitry Steshin argues in a 5800-word three-part investigation of the situation there. But Islamist radicals have penetrated key institutions and often local officials are often at a loss as to what to do (,
Aleksandr Petrushin, a former KGB general who now works as a local historian, told Steshin that the situation has been getting worse since the beginning of oil and gas development there in 1964 because republics like Azerbaijan adopted the new petroleum sites and encouraged people to move there.
Many thought this would lead to some kind of American-style melting pot in which all these non-Russians would assimilate and become Russians, Petrushin says; but that hasnt happened. Instead, ethnic conflicts occur in daily life and that leads the non-Russian Muslims to turn ever more to their religion and its more extreme forms.
According to him, that is reflected in crime statistics. During this year alone, the former KGB general said, some 29,397 gastarbeiters across Russia have been convicted of crimes and sent to prisons and camps, something that places an enormous burden on Russian taxpayers but also leads to the radicalization of Muslims.
Not surprisingly, the general says, Muslim gastarbeiters go where the work and money is, and in the first half of 2017, 191,000 of them arrived in Tyumen and Khanty-Mansiisk.  That is an increase from recent years when 120,000 to 170,000 came. And those are only official statistics. How many really have come is unknown, Petrushin adds.
A serving FSB officer who has experience tracking Hizb ut-Tahrir groups in the region tells the Moscow journalist that cells of this group are operating through the entire region from the borders of Kazakhstan to the last inhabited territories in the north of the oblast and that the Hizby are much more horrible than the Wahhabis.
The police and the FSB have arrested many of them, he continues, but they continue to work because they are structured in five-person cells and because they have succeeded in penetrating the organs of state power and the apparatus of the oil and chemical industries and are thus in a position to defend one another.
As a result, he says, efforts to root them out, by closing mosques and the like, havent worked.  And they wont because this isnt a local problem: it is a regional or even countrywide one.  But in the near term, the Siberian region will be shaken by the Islamic factory and shaken very seriously.
In some parts of the north, the FSB officer says, up to 80 percent of the magistrates are now of Muslim nationality; and none of them can be counted on to enforce the law in a serious way. The Russians and Russian speakers who had occupied these posts have now fled to other, neighboring regions.
Islamist radicals in his telling are focusing on those industries and centers which they can exploit to attract more of their fellow Muslims and build power centers.  Asked if he favored going back to ethnic quotas in these institutions, the KGB officer said that he doesnt know and doesnt have any algorithm to suggest.
Tyumen religious specialist Viktor Petrov adds that some of the Islamists are already calculating where they can blow up pipelines to inflict maximum punishment on the Russian state. And he showed Steshin a map he has prepared on the expansion of religious Islamist extremists in Siberia.
First, Petrov says, Sufis, who profess traditional Islam, arrived, settled, strengthened their positions and found common group with Siberians and even set up graves of Sufi sheikhs as pilgrimage sites.  But this was our Islam, native, Tatar. But it was succeeded by others, Wahhabis and other radicals who began talking about a Tyumen or even Siberian khalifate.
Local and regional officials understand the threat, he continues, and have adopted a law limiting missionary activity. But in his view, this is far from enough given the radical goals of the Islamists in the Russian North and the rapid influx of people from Central Asia and the Caucasus into that region.
According to one local resident, the number of such gastarbeiters has more than doubled since 1990 and continues to climb, pushing out local Russians.  And the radicals find increasing numbers of recruits among them, according to one local imam who said they had tried to take over his mosque but so far failed.
He added, however, that even from our little city, people are now studying in Morocco, but they dont come back [because] they are wanted under federal warrant. Their departure lessens the pressure in the region but highlights how many people are now listening to the radicals and seeking alternative futures.
Vasily Markhinin, a political scientist at Surgut University, says that the situation is deteriorating and that 65 percent of the residents of Surgut see the inter-ethnic and inter-religious situation as critical or close to critical even though officials continue to promote the notion that everything is fine.
He adds that officials acknowledge that 80 local Muslims were recruited by ISIS in 2015, but there are certainly more about whom the authorities dont know and they are focusing on penetrating officialdom and key infrastructure objects including pipelines and highways so as to be able to attack the state in its most vulnerable places.
But back in Moscow, Steshin spoke with Roman Silantyev, a controversial Islamic specialist closely linked to the Orthodox Church.  He says that if Muslims go from the North to the Middle East, it will be simpler to liquidate them. But he argues that the situation now is not as bad as it was because the authorities have come down hard on the radicals.
Silantyev adds that he always tells local officials and law enforcement personnel that you must know by name every Wahhabi and fascist on your territory and use all legal means to minimize their number.  Some will find that reassuring, but others will be frightened by its suggestion that the Islamists are everywhere in Russia,including where theyd never been before.
Window on Eurasia — New Series