Moscow’s false story about Alaska infuriates residents of Russian North

Only piles used to build in permafrost and shacks remain of a town in Russia's Chukotka Peninsula across the strait from Alaska. The now decaying monument was built to honor Timofey Yelkov, the first Chukcha pilot, who was killed in World War II (Image: Alexander Belenkiy / macos.ms)

Only piles used to build in permafrost and shacks remain of a town in Russia's Chukotka Peninsula across the strait from Alaska. The now decaying monument was built to honor Timofey Yelkov, the first Chukcha pilot, who was killed in World War II (Image: Alexander Belenkiy / macos.ms) 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

A story Moscow media outlets put out yesterday claimed that an advisor to the governor of the US state of Alaska had said that “Alaska might be better developed now if it were under Russian control” has not only been proved false but has outraged residents of the Republic of Sakha.

As the Moscow Times reports, Craig Fleener, the official in question, did not say what the Moscow outlets suggested. He only said that if Russia had retained Alaska, it “wouldn’t have abandoned the region entirely” given its natural resources and strategic location.

That Russian propagandists distort or even make up quotations to push their agendas is not news: it happens too frequently to fall into that category. But such people and their bosses may discover that such practices not only give Russia a black eye in terms of reputation abroad but also infuriate Russian citizens when they are involved, as in this case they were.

Stepan Petrov, leader of the Yakutiya – Nashe mneniye movement, said that what the Moscow media claimed Fleener had said could only be taken to mean that conditions in the Russian North are now better than conditions in Alaska, something that is completely untrue as the residents of the Russian North know all too well.

In fact, he told the Regnum news agency, “the very worse conditions of life of residents of the northern countries” – the US, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia – “are to be found in the North of Russia,” as any visitor or websurfer could confirm without difficulty.

In the far-eastern regions of Russia’s Far North like Chukotka, Sakhalin, Kamchatka, Sakha and others, devastation and hopelessness rule,” despite the fact that the natural resources of these areas are making people in distant Moscow rich while leaving their indigenous population worse off than ever.

This is the result of the unjust distribution of incomes from the sale of natural resources, a problem that was the focus of the Arctic Forum this week. More than half of the taxes and almost all of the corporate income leaves the region and never returns.

The companies involved, Petrov says, “do not bear any social responsibility. In the majority of cases, they don’t hire people from the local population.” Instead, they come in from the outside, take as much out as they can, and then leave without repairing the damage that they inevitably inflict on the land and its people.

But it isn’t just the companies that are at fault, he says. The Russian government is to blame as well: Moscow does not respect the federalism enshrined in the Russian Constitution and generally ignores the opinions and needs of the indigenous policy while favoring “greedy oligarchs and corrupt officials.”

If Alaska had remained part of Russia, it would have been subject to the same treatment. Monthly pay would be about 200 US dollars, not the 4,000 Alaskans receive; and pensions would be 100 US dollars, not the 1300 that Alaskans get. And Alaskans might be forced into credit slavery – paying interest rates of 900 percent or more – in order to buy food.”

If Alaska were part of Russia now, Petrov continues, “Alaskans in Russia would live in aging wooden houses and be using outhouses at minus 50 [degrees Celsius, same as minus 58 Fahrenheit]. They couldn’t in our country make use of the benefits of developed private aviation and would lose the opportunity to receive free food products that US policy allows.

“And of course,” he says. “residents of [a Russian] Alaska couldn’t dream about a permanent fund which is made up of profits from oil there. Some 25 percent of the profits of oil companies in Alaska is put there, and half of the income from it is shared directly among the residents of Alaska.” In a Russia Alaska, all that money would go to oligarchs and officials.

Alaska because of its location is not fated to be as wealthy as New York City or Silicon Valley, the Sakha activist says; “but it is obvious nonetheless that present-day life in Alaska [which is part of the United States] is much better than it would have been if Alaska had remained within Russia.”


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Alex George

    Six months ago the Constitutional Court of this region held that ““all the territory of Yakutia is the historical motherland of the Yakut people” and that they are entitled to its resources. Moscow just swallowed this rebuff, even though some Russian bloggers were outraged by it.

    In theory, Moscow could easily crush any dissent by the numerically small Sakha people, whose resources are plundered by Russian oligarchs. But how would Moscow do this? It has to find free troops which aren’t on the southern or western borders, and then it has to find the logistics to maintain them in one of the most inhospitable regions in the world.

    The Sakha people are likely to welcome any outside assistance that promises them a bigger share of their own resources than Moscow allows.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      If the dwarf needs the troops to crush any dissent in Yakutia he’ll find them by hook or crook. He can always send Crimean conscripts now that they will have to serve in any part of Dwarfstan:

      http://uawire.org/news/shoygu-conscripts-from-crimea-will-serve-in-all-regions-of-russia

      Alternatively, he can send South Ossetians now that the so-called South Ossetian army will be integrated into Dwarfstan’s army:

      http://uawire.org/news/russia-integrates-south-ossetian-army-into-the-russian-military

      • Alex George

        He can’t find them by hook or crook. Resources are finite. If he lets go other priorities, yes he can find them. The same goes for the resources to maintain them.

        The South Ossetians number about 700 yearly. Even if the Crimeans number in the thousands (which seems unlikely) neither group makes any real difference to the Russian army’s increasing manpower shortage.

  • Turtler

    Well, that is utter codswallop. And had the propaganda mouthpieces been telling the truth (as unnatural as it must have been for them) Fleener would have had to have been brain dead to think so.

    I don’t need to look into the long and bloody history of Siberia’s misdevelopment by the Kremlin to know it’s balderdash. I don’t have to look into the centuries of parasitic exploitation by Moscow of the native peoples to know it is balderdash. I don’t have to draft complicated simulations or come up with thesies to do it either.

    All I have to look at a few places where Russia has not only retained control, but is most at home.

    This article by Michael Totten from way back when sums it up in a dynamite way, and is just the introduction to an even more damning article by Ellen Berry.

    http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/michael-j-totten/russia-left-behind

    Here’s the money quote:

    “This part of Russia should not be the back of beyond. It’s the single
    stretch of road between the country’s two largest cities. The road from
    Fairbanks, Alaska, to Deadhorse on the Arctic Ocean is in better
    condition than this. (I know, I’ve driven it.)”

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      There was a travel report on TV here some time ago which showed the road between Smolensk and Minsk at one stage. The moment the travelers entered Belarus the road surface became much better than that in Dwarfstan. Says it all really, if even Belarus can maintain a better road surface than Dwarfstan.

  • zorbatheturk

    I once read something about women working at a fish processing plant in RuSSia’s frozen far north. The wage these workers were getting for one day was not even enough to buy a single fish.