A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 26

April 8, 2016
Sochi Olympics cottages for sale in February 2016. Photo by sochi-realinvest.ru

A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 26

Staunton, VA, April 8, 2016 – The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.

Consequently, Windows on Eurasia presents a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the twenty-sixth such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, once again, one could have put out such a listing every day — but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1. Russia Not in Crisis, Only in ‘New Reality,’ Central Bank Says.  In the latest Moscow effort to play down the economic problems of the Russian Federation, the Central Bank says there is no crisis, only “a new reality” that Russians are having to come to terms with.

2. Moscow Continues to Move Border Deeper into Georgia. Often at night when no one is watching, Russian border guards move border posts deeper into Georgia. No one is stopping this “creeping annexation” and Western observers say they remain uncertain just what maps the Russians are using.

3. Could an Incorrect Weather Forecast Bring Down Russian State?  A Duma deputy wants to introduce criminal penalties against weather forecasters whose incorrect predictions, he says, could threaten the survival of the Russian state. Other deputies are calling for criminal penalties against those who fail to report a revolution or revolt in Russia and rating the regions of the Russian Federation according to their level of patriotism.

4. Putin’s Presidential Guard New Example of ‘State within a State.’  In the past, various Russian writers have suggested that the KGB and its epigones constitute a state within a state in Russia. Now, some are suggesting that Putin is creating “a state within a state” by establishing a presidential guard, one whose numbers vastly exceed the armed forces of most countries around the world.

5. Russian Officials Should Defend Feelings of Orthodox, Not Buddhists. A Russian commentator has expressed outrage that Russian officials quickly came to the defense of Buddhists when members of that community were insulted by the actions of a Muslim sportsman but have generally failed to take up the cudgels for Russian Orthodox people who are routinely insulted by others. But many of those attacking the Orthodox Church are themselves Orthodox Russians: lawsuits against the church have increased by a factor of four over the last few years.

6. Bankruptcies, Unsold Homes in Sochi.  Vladimir Putin’s Olympic triumph continues to rankle local people: few of the residences that were supposed to be sold to help pay for the spectacle have found buyers, and ever more firms through which government money was pushed are declaring bankruptcy in order to prevent Moscow from recovering any of its losses. 

7. Russian Officials Want to Install Pornographer as Mayor of Petrozavodsk. Having driven the opposition mayor from office, Russian officials have come up with an idea that may distract attention of some: they have announced plans to install in her place someone with a long history of producing pornography.

8. Moscow Translates Bible into Tatar; Tatars Support Mosque Construction across Russia.  Russian officials have announced the completion of a translation of the entire Bible into Kazan Tatar, part of their effort to promote the Kryashens and weaken the Tatars. But at the same time, the Republic of Tatarstan has announced plans to help build more mosques across the Russian Federation and thus promote the spread of Islam

9. Europeans May Submit to Islam But Russians Won’t, Two Novels Suggest. Michel Mouellebecq’s novel, Submission, about how Islam comes to power in France may accurately reflect how contemporary Europeans will respond to the upsurge in Islam, a Russian reviewer says; but Elena Chudinova’s dystopian novel, The Mosque of Notre Dame de Paris, which chronicles Slavic and Palestinian resistance to Islamism, underscores the fact that Russians will not accept the imposition of Islamist values in their country.

10. For First Time in 25 years, Karelian Village has a Protest.  Protest demonstrations can spring up in the most unlikely places for the most unlikely reasons as when villagers who have put up with official malfeasance and abuse for decades suddenly decide that they have had enough and go into the streets, a warning to the Kremlin that just because things look quiet and under control, they may not be. 

11. Sakha Press for Nationality Line in Passports. Fearful that the absence of a nationality line in Russian passports will undermine their ability to defend themselves, members of the Sakha nationality are demanding the introduction of inserts into internal passports that will be written in Sakha and include the nationality of the bearer.  Similar efforts were made by Tatars and Bashkirs in the 1990s. 

12. Moscow Cuts Back Finno-Ugric Representation at Conferences Abroad.  Russian officials are restricting the number of Finno-Ugric activists who will be allowed to attend international conferences, a move that may represent nothing more than budgetary considerations but that has the effect of cutting some of these groups off from their co-ethnics abroad. 

13. Ever More Small Nationalities Fear They Won’t Survive in Russia.  Despite claims by Moscow ethnographers that no nation in Russia has or even will disappear, ever more representatives of Russia’s smallest and not so small nations are expressing fears that they may not survive this century given Russian assimilationist pressures.  The latest to do so are the Maris.

And three more from Russia’s neighbors:  

14. Occupation Authorities Close Last Ukrainian-Language Paper in Crimea.  Many have kept track of Russian repression against Crimean Tatar news outlets and organizations, but the occupation authorities have also moved against Ukrainian-language outlets.  This past week they closed the last Ukrainian-language newspaper there, one that had existed since 1991.

15. Kyrgyz Again Refuses to Open Corridor to Uzbek Enclave. There are nine ethnic enclaves in Central Asia and access between them and their co-ethnic countries is a major irritant in relations among these states. Once again, however, Bishkek has declared that it will not open a corridor to the largest of these Uzbek enclaves within its borders, setting the stage for more violence.

16. First Black Born in Soviet Uzbekistan Bears the Name Joseph Stalin. An American black whose family emigrated to the USSR in the 1930s in search of work is still alive and to this day proudly bears the name his parents gave him, that of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Issue No. 25 is here.