Another baker’s dozen of neglected Russian stories

Putin and Medvedev billboard in Russia (Image:


Analysis & Opinion, Russia

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-fifth 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. Even Putin Admits There are Massive Human Rights Violations in Russia. In a measure of both just how bad things are in Russia and how duplicitous Vladimir Putin is about that and everything else, the Kremlin leader says that there were 3.2 million violations of human rights registered in Russia during 2015 alone. Of course, he did not acknowledge his own role in boosting that number. And his operatives took down the Levada Center site after its polling found that his public support was slipping.

2. Russian Arrested for Wearing Putin Mask, Others to be Jailed for Insulting Russian President. One Muscovite has been arrested four times now for wearing a Putin mask as a form of protest. Other Russians stand to serve six years in prison if they insult the president according to a new measure under consideration in the Duma.

3. Moscow Moves from Closing KGB Archives to Destroying Them. In its effort to control the past in order to control the future, the Kremlin has fired archive directors, persecuted authors for articles and books which offer a view of the Soviet past it doesn’t like, and routinely presented an alternative reality unfamiliar to those who have actually studied Russia’s history. Now, the Kremlin has taken the next step to ensure that only its version of history will survive: it has moved from closing archives about the Soviet security police to actually destroying portions of them.

4. Russian Economy Down But Economic Crimes Up. Despite the decline in the Russian economy over the last two years, the number of economic crimes in the country has continued to grow. And the size of bribes appears to be growing as well, especially in Moscow. Bribes in the Russian capital are now 3.5 times those in the provinces.

5. Russians have Increasingly Positive View of Stalin but Wouldn’t Want to Live Under Him. A new poll finds that ever more Russians think Stalin was a positive figure in their history but they also say that, despite that belief, they wouldn’t want to live under the system he created. Another survey finds most Russians say that in 1991, they would have backed the continued existence of the USSR.

6. Russian Far East Suffering from ‘Epidemic of Falling Bridges.’ Russian officials are scrambling to cope with the latest case of the failure of Russian infrastructure: “an epidemic” of collapsing bridges in the Far East. Meanwhile, residents of the Moscow suburb of Lyubertsy have organized a competition to identify the largest and deepest pothole in roads there.

7. Sakha Residents Demonstrate Against Moscow’s Plans to Resettle Russians in Their Republic. More than a thousand residents of Sakha took part in a demonstration against Moscow’s plans to offer free land to Russians who agree to resettle in the Far East, including in the Sakha Republic.

8. Chechen Capital Rated ‘Most Secure City’ in Russia. Grozny has been rated “the most secure city” in the Russian Federation, a reflection either of the duplicity of Ramzan Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin’s willingness to go along with it or the result of the Chechen leader’s increasingly repressive rule.

9. Russia Air Routes Now Even More Moscow-Centric than in Soviet Times. One of the sad if comic aspects of Soviet life was that residents of one oblast who wanted to fly to a nearby one often had to travel via Moscow, thousands of kilometers out of their way. Now, after the collapse of most regional carriers and the closing of nearly a thousand airports, experts say that situation has returned and that the Russian air travel map is now even more Moscow-centric than it was.

10. Two Percent of Pregnant Urals Residents HIV Infected. Doctors say that one in every 50 pregnant women in the Urals is HIV infected. But journalists report that there is no money for HIV/AIDS testing there, so the situation may be even worse.

11. Russians Say Doping Scandal a Western Conspiracy Against Their Country. As ever more Russian sports stars are found to have violated international doping rules, Russians tell pollsters they view the whole thing as nothing but a Western conspiracy designed to keep Russians from winning. Russian parliamentarians are angry as well: they say that in Soviet times, the sports minister would have been shot for allowing such scandals to occur or at least become public knowledge.

12. Academic Fraud in Russia So Widespread It is Now an Academic Subject. A new field has emerged in Russian scholarship – the study of academic fraud. It appears likely to grow because Russians increasingly view university degrees as goods to be purchased rather than as recognition of study.

13. Russia No Longer Manufactures Pianos. Given its economic difficulties, Russia has had to stop producing many things; but perhaps the hardest to bear for many is that that country with its rich musical history no longer produces pianos.

And four more stories from Russia’s neighbors:

14. Ukrainian Extreme Right Penetrated by Russian Security Services. Most people assume that Moscow works hardest to penetrate and control groups which are pro-Russian, but in many cases, its security agencies work to penetrate and direct groups that may be ostensibly anti-Russian. That gives Moscow additional leverage and sometimes plausible deniability. Now, there is growing evidence that Russian security agencies have penetrated the Ukrainian extreme right.

15. Fears of Islamic State, Not Mistreatment Driving Russians Out of Central Asia. Most commentators have suggested that ethnic Russians are leaving the five Central Asian countries primarily because of the increasingly nationalist approach of the governments there, but a new study concludes that most Russians departing from the region are now doing so because of fears about the actions of ISIS.

16. In Kharkiv, Bandera Statue May Replace Lenin One. A statue of Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera will go up in place of a statue of Lenin in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv if local activists have their way.

17. Transfer Payments Home by Tajik Gastarbeiters Fall by Another Two-Thirds. Tajikistan’s problems have been compounded by the fact that transfer payments from its gastarbeiters in the Russian Federation, already lower in 2013 and 2014 fell by another two-thirds last year, yet another example of how Russia’s problems are spreading to other former Soviet republics.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Quartermaster

    You got the wrong flag there, Adrian. The Russian flag fits far better. Russia is in deep, deep trouble. Liars like yourself will not change that fact. Russia is in sharp decline, economically and politically. The KGB officer in charge in Moscow is going to destroy the country you shill for, and there is little you, or any other Ukrainian traitor, can do about it.

    So rave on. Like Gorbachev, you will find your insane little world is ending, and the remnant of the Russian empire is going to break up leaving Russia as rump state west of the urals, impoverished, it’s military destroyed in the middle east and with no influence.
    Putin is calling a tune now, but the piper will be paid and the bill will be horrific.

    • Quartermaster

      You may just be learning.

      There is a difference between hope and expectation. Not being a fluent English speaker you may not realize that (if you are fluent then you would have a vocabulary about as large as mine, and would actually think in the language). I doubt there are a large number of Ukrainians actually expecting anything from the US at this point. They’ve been too disappointed by the incompetent the US has as president.

      There appears to far less division than you think between the two large sections of the country. Neither side seems to be anxious to have Russia back running things. They can see where Russia is headed now, and Russia may well fail long before Ukraine does. I think Ukraine could pull things out if Russia behaved and went home, but that isn’t going to happen until the country collapses. It may be a while off, but as we saw with the fall of the Soviet Union, it can happen very quickly.

      Forbes used to be a decent magazine, but in recent years has turned left and is headed down the same path to irrelevance as much of the western media. On the whole, however, the portion you have copied is not at all bad. The thing on expectation, in my observation, is not as extensive as the article would lead one the believe. The US has not been much of a friend to Ukraine.

      You may be a Russian stooge, but telling them the US won’t rescue them is telling them the truth. Hard truth often is not well received.

      • Quartermaster

        To engage with reality, you will have to find it first. With teh Forbes article you are headed in the right direction. A a Russian apologist, you will not like what you find, if you are decent person and really want the truth. Putin is simply abusing your good faith, and he will destroy Russia.

        • Quartermaster

          It’s not a hope on my part. The fall of the Soviet Union was just as predictable as the fall of Russia is now. The US is going to fall for exactly the same reasons that Russia will fall.
          You won’t hear any screams from me. You will probably hear “I told you so.”

          • Quartermaster

            Your “dynamics” makes no allowance for what Russia has done to Ukraine in the last 2 years. Liars like yourself are unwilling to see that criminals running things in Moscow have no effect, and that’s quite convenient to you. Ukraine had problems, but they have been compounded several orders of magnitude since Russia occupied Crime and the destroyed much of the Donbas, and it is dishonest for you to refuse to admit that.

            Alas, you are simply too stupid, or dishonest, to read what I said. I do not hope for the fall of Russia or the US. They will fall, however, because of the stupidity of the people running them. Putin is no better than Brezhnev or Yeltsin and is part of the criminal coterie that is looting the country. There is a large difference between hope and prediction. Russia has suffered enough idiots like Yeltsin and Putin. I would hope your people would pull things out, but from what I am seeing, it won’t happen and you will revisit the early 90s when Yeltsin allowed the country to be openly looted and people suffered even more than they did under Soviet times.

            instead of expending your energy to come here and lie on behalf of a criminal, you would be better off going home and reforming Russia. You won’t accomplish that helping Putin loot another country.

          • Alex George

            Obviously Adrian couldn’t answer that one.

          • Quartermaster

            Adrian never answers. He simply tries to deflect from the facts and truth. He’s simply a Russian shill and liar.