Putin's United Russia party campaigning in a Russian village: the horse-drawn cart reusing the cabin from a dismantled tractor prominently displays its flag wherever it goes (Image: rufabula.ru)
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 third 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. Russians View Elections as Fraudulent or Irrelevant. Significant numbers of Russians tell pollsters that elections in their country are fraudulent or at least irrelevant in terms of what will happen in their own lives.
2. Ruble’s Collapse Keeps Muslims From Filling Haj Quota. This year, for the first time since the 1990s, Russia’s Muslims did not fill the quota for the haj that Saudi officials established. Russia was allocated 16,400 places; it sent only about 12,000. The reason? The declining value of the ruble priced the trip beyond that of increasingly hard-pressed believers.
3. Despite Kremlin’s Propaganda Effort, Russia Ranks 95th out of 125 Countries in Terms of Image. Russia’s image in the world is not good: In a new ranking, it comes in 95th, just behind Honduras and just ahead of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
5. Smilies Basis for Charge of Gay Propaganda and Job Application Abroad for Charge of Treason. Russian courts continue to surprise: A Kirov court has concluded that some smilie icons are sufficient to bring a charge of gay propaganda and another Russian court has decided that a former official who applied for a position abroad may be tried for treason as a result.
7. Russian Iconography Now Combines Nicholas II and Stalin. Reflecting Vladimir Putin’s insistence on a single stream of Russian history, portraits of and stories about the last tsar and the Soviet dictator often stress supposedly similar features.
8. To the Banning of Books, Religious and Otherwise, There is No End. Various commentators have suggested that the ban on Koranic passages opens the way to banning the holy works of all monotheistic religions and also Buddhist texts. In addition, some Russian schools now want to ban Bunin, Yesenin and Nabokov. And a few are asking: Are the works of Karl Marx next?
9. Patriarch Says God Will Punish Protesters. Patriarch Kirill says that God’s wrath will be visited upon any who protest against the Russian government, his latest essay into Russian politics.
10. Moscow Officials Say 50,000 HIV/AIDS Cases ‘Not an Epidemic.’ In order to justify their decision not to build a special hospital to treat those with HIV/AIDS, officials in the Russian capital say that the 50,000 active cases there does not constitute “an epidemic” and thus do not require extraordinary measures.
11. Seven Russian Cities Fight Over Where Journalist was Jailed. Cities in many countries fight over which is the oldest or best on some measure. In Russia, seven cities are now fighting over which one has the right to claim that it was the site of a Soviet prison camp where a Russian journalist was jailed in Soviet times.
12. Fewer Russians are Traveling Abroad But More are Moving There Permanently. In response to Russia’s economic and political problems, ever fewer Russians have the cash to travel abroad on vacation, but ever more of them are making the decision to leave Russia permanently.