Staunton, October 25 – The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and often 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 will present a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week or as in this case at the beginning of the next. This is the seventh such weekly compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.
1. Everything Putin Needs to Know, He Learned in Leningrad’s Mean Streets. Vladimir Putin says that when he was growing up, he learned in the streets of his native city, Leningrad, that “if a fight is inevitable, strike first.” Avoiding a fight altogether is something many others learn when they grow up, but not the Kremlin leader.
2. Another BRICS Out of the Wall. Putin didn’t get the support he expected from CIS countries on Syria and Ukraine; now, he isn’t getting it within the much-ballyhooed BRICS grouping of countries either: Brazil has denounced Russia for its actions in Syria.
3. Russia Anything But Welcoming to Refugees. Even as Russian officials give improving lectures to Europe about refugees, their own country has extended permanent refugee status to only 816 people. Emblematic of Moscow’s real as opposed declared approach is the case of a Syrian family which has been living in Sheremetyevo Airport for a month.
4. Russians Stop Naming Their Children ‘Crimea’ and Its Variants. At least since early Bolshevik times, Russians have named their children after what they see as significant leaders, events or even places. After Moscow illegally annexed Crimea, many Russians named their children “Crimea” or some variant thereof. Now, Moscow officials say, such names are going out of fashion.
5. Russia’s Special Services to Promote ‘Positive Values.’ Russia’s special services are being tasked to promote “positive values” among Russians perhaps using their soon-to-be-acquired right to use the torture of prisoners as one of their methods.
6. Do the Crime, Do the Time – in the Russian Army. Russian judges may soon have the option to send those convicted of crimes to serve their “sentences” as soldiers in the Russian military, a reflection of both the high cost of prisons and the shortages of young men in the draft pool.
7. Another Step Back toward Soviet Times – FSB to Review Scholarly Papers Before Publication. In Soviet time, a special department in Russia’s higher educational institutions, one staffed by KGB officers, reviewed all academic papers prior to publication lest there be a leak of state secrets. Now, restoring that tradition, officers from the FSB will do the same.
8. Moscow Statue Sold for Scrap. In the 1990s, thieves regularly stole copper wires and sold them for scrap; now, they have a new target – unguarded monuments. In Moscow, thieves took a statue to a Soviet-era actor and sold it for scrap.
9. Dacha Chief Symbol of Private Property for Russians. A new study has concluded that for Russians, the dacha is the chief symbol of private property and continues to play a defining role in how Russians view the new phenomenon of private ownership.
10. Graduates from Regions Won’t Go Home Again. Students who leave their home regions for university study elsewhere are unlikely to return, a pattern that puts many regions in an ever more difficult position as far as development is concerned.
11. Punishing Russians Who Vote Incorrectly. Those Russians who live in districts which cast a disproportionate share of their ballots for opposition figures are likely to suffer as a result, possibly seeing their parks and clubs closed by the victors.
12. Special Caskets for Special Russians. Not content with living better in this life than their poorer compatriots, Russia’s super rich and those who aspire to be part of it are now ordering special caskets and cemetery monuments so that their wealth will in that sense at least live after them.
13. In Nizhny Tagil, Putinstrasse Leads Past a Cemetery. In the Sverdlovsk Region city of Nizhny Tagil, a new street has appeared – Putinstrasse – which leads from the railroad station past the local cemetery.