Staunton, October 16 – 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. This is the sixth 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. Putin’s 80 Percent Approval Doesn’t Mean What He Thinks – Gorbachev and Yeltsin Once had the Same. Aleksey Levinson of the Levada Center says that many, including in the Kremlin, make too much of Vladimir Putin’s astronomical approval ratings: In fact, just about the same share of Russians once backed now-despised Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.
2. Most Russians want to ‘Liquidate’ Prostitutes and Homosexuals. A new poll finds that Russians are prepared to impose the highest penalty on an ever-increasing number of groups they don’t like or approve of, including but not limited to prostitutes and homosexuals.
3. New Russian Military Unit to Fight Historical Falsifications. The Russian defense ministry has announced the formation of a new Russian military unit to expose and combat any treatment of the past that differs from the ones approved by the Kremlin.
4. Despite Increasing Anti-American Propaganda, More Russians Want to Move to the US. In what will recall to some the impact of the Soviet-era film, “The Man from Fifth Avenue,” the Russian government’s anti-American propaganda and the increasing anti-Americanism among the population has been accompanied by an increase in the number of Russians who want to move to the United States.
5. Russians Now Using Cellphone Cameras to Record FSB Agents Trailing Them. Like people in other countries, Russians are finding that cellphone cameras can be useful in recording the activities of officials they don’t like. Increasingly, Russians are using such devices to record FSB officers tracking them.
6. Economic Problems Push Russia ‘Ever Closer to Banana Republics.’ Russia may not be a banana republic, but its increasing economic problems, including the collapse of industry and rising rates of poverty, are pushing it in that direction, some commentators say.
7. Mizulina Wants Only Women Who’ve Given Birth to Have Access to Higher Education. Elena Mizulina, a Duma deputy famous or infamous for her proposals, is now calling for banning access to higher education for any Russian women who haven’t given birth to children. Such a step, she says, would help the country overcome its demographic problems.
8. One Mosque for Every Half Million Muslims More than Enough, Moscow Mayor Says. Sergey Sobyanin says that he sees no need for any new mosques in the Russian capital. The five officially registered ones operating now are more than the 2.5 million followers of Islam need, he suggests.
9. ISIS Now Recruiting in 22 Russian Regions, Experts Say. Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that 5,000 to 7,000 citizens of Russia and the other post-Soviet states are now fighting for ISIS in the middle east has attracted a great deal of attention. Less has gone to the finding by Russian experts that ISIS now is actively recruiting in 22 regions of the Russian Federation, far from all of which are traditionally Islamic.
10. Russian Con Men Try to Profit with Internet Scheme about Death of Russian Soldier in Syria. The Russian internet has featured reports about the supposed death of a Russian policeman from the Urals in Siberia, but an investigation by the URA.ru news agency suggests that these reports are a con designed to get Russians to send money that will go not to a grieving family but to criminals.
11. Russian Soldiers in Syria Engaged in Illegal Barter Operations. Just as was the case in Chechnya and likely earlier Russian wars, Russian soldiers now in Syria are engaged in illegal barter operations seeking to acquire goods they can’t get at home.
12. In Russia, Theology Now an Official Subject while Law Becomes an Endangered One. (See also here.) The Russian government has recognized theology as a legitimate academic subject, even as it has announced that because of an overproduction of lawyers, it will cut back in the number being trained in the future.
13. In New Anecdote, Putin Returns from the Dead to Discover an Empire but Not the One He Wanted. According to a joke circulating at least in Buryatia, ten years after his death, Putin asks Christ to be allowed to return to Moscow to see what has happened to all of his plans. He finds that an empire has been built, that it includes everything from the Soviet past and more. But when he learns all this from a barkeeper, he is shocked by the fact that he is asked to pay in Mongol currency – because the new empire is the restored Mongol Horde and not the Russian world he wanted.