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 36th 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.
- Putin Heads an Occupation Regime, Yakovenko Says. Vladimir Putin’s regime like Pol Pot’s in Cambodia is an occupation regime even though it has been imposed by people who are nominally part of the titular nationality, according to Igor Yakovenko. And it is one with a unique national idea, according to pro-communist writers. That idea is “steal as much as you can while you are still able.”
- Yeltsin Gradually Displacing Gorbachev as Chief Demon for Russian Nationalists. For Russian nationalists and imperialists who view the end of the USSR as the chief geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, Mikhail Gorbachev has long been their chief demon, but now ever more Russians, including people from these groups, see Boris Yeltsin as bearing even more responsibility. That has fed into a new discussion of the ways in which Russia’s failure to face up to its past in the early 1990s has led to the recrudescence of Sovietism and Soviet-type crimes under Putin.
- Petersburgers Outraged by Honors Given to ‘Those Who Killed Russians.’ Russians are upset by the decision of officials to rename a bridge for Akhmed Zakayev and put up a plaque honoring Marshal Mannerheim, decisions the Kremlin has defended. The complaint in both cases is that these two men “killed Russians.” If that becomes the standard, there are a lot of domestic Russian leaders whose statues will have to be taken down and plagues removed. Meanwhile, Russian officials say they will not rename a railroad station or a boulevard in Moscow currently named for Kyiv.
- What Do Marseilles Prostitutes, the Pro-Kremlin Media and Duma Deputies have in Common? All three praised the behavior of Russian soccer louts at the end of the match with England. The prostitutes of Marseilles offered the Russians special discounts for their services. The pro-Kremlin media ignored the facts and presented the soccer louts as heroes. And Duma deputies praised the Russian thugs as defenders of “the Russian world.” Meanwhile, FIFA not only imposed sanctions against the Russian fans but said they had behaved in a racist manner.
- Cossacks Threaten Black Students Who Perform Cossack Songs. Racism isn’t confined to the behavior of the Russian soccer louts. It is increasingly found elsewhere in Russian society. A group of African students has appealed to Vladimir Putin for defense against Kuban Cossacks who are upset that the black students dress in Cossack garb and sing Cossack songs. Meanwhile, surveys of African students across Russia show that it is hard to be black in Russia today.
- Duma Deputies Divorcing in Record Numbers to Hide Wealth. In response to new laws which require Duma deputies to report the income and wealth not only of themselves but of their wives, Russian parliamentarians are divorcing in record numbers in order not to have to report their real worthy. Meanwhile in another story about Russian women, the Russian edition of Cosmopolitan put up and then took down a story saying that among foreigners, the earlier fad for marrying Russian women had passed because many men had discovered that the Russian women were more interested in the status of being married than in them because it would allow them to leave the country.
- ‘For Everything Else,’ There isn’t Visa – at Least in Some Russian Restaurants. To show their patriotism, some Russian restaurants are refusing to accept Visa or Mastercard from their patrons, although most of these have set up ATMs so that diners can get cash to pay their bills. But because of the economic crisis, fewer Russians are going to restaurants and those who want to go out are going to cafes instead.
- One Soviet Idea Unlikely to Come Back. Kommersant reports this week about the times during the early days of television when the Soviet authorities required state registration of all TV sets in the USSR.
- Half of Russian State Budget Now Goes to Military or Kremlin’s Prestige Projects. An analysis of the current Russian budget shows that the Putin regime is now spending half of its outlays on the military and other security services and on prestige projects like the World Cup or the building of ice breakers, the first of which was launched this week after a 40 year gap. Nonetheless, supporters of the military say that the high command is at risk from Putin’s actions and should take action against the Kremlin leader.
- Putin has Closed More Russian Factories than Hitler Destroyed. According to one count, more than 35,000 major factories have been closed down since Vladimir Putin became president, a figure that exceeds the number Hitler destroyed when he invaded the USSR during World War II. In other economic news, with the collapse in the price of oil, Russia is now earning more money from the export of food than from the sale of arms and oil.
- Economic Crisis Causing More Russians to Turn to Magistrates for Legal Help. The economic crisis in Russia may have at last one positive outcome: it is causing Russians to turn to prosecutors and investigators for legal help, something most of them were loathe to do earlier out of a desire to avoid all officials when possible.
- Soldiers Say ‘Alaska Should Follow Crimea’ Back to Russia. Some Russian soldiers have written the slogan “Alaska Should Come Back to Russia as Crimea has” on some of their combat vehicles.
- Moscow Media Outlets Inventing Both Western Statements but Western Journals. Pro-Kremlin media are now not only claiming that Western officials have said things that they haven’t but also inventing Western media outlets and journalists that do not in fact exist.
And seven more from Russia’s neighbors:
- EU to Finance Feasibility Study on Tallinn-Helsinki Rail Tunnel. The European Union has announced that it will fund a study to determine the possibility of building a tunnel between the Estonian and Finnish capitals, a link that if made would have major geopolitical consequences in Scandinavia and northwest Russia.
- Few Kazakhs Think Outsiders Were Behind Recent Unrest. Only one Kazakh in four thinks that foreign forces were responsible for the recent wave of unrest in their country; most place the blame on domestic problems. Meanwhile, however, Moscow specialist on Islam Aleksey Malashenko says that Astana should be worried about ethnic Russian converts to Islam.
- Armenia Points Out the Obvious: Stalin Was Once Hitler’s Ally. Infuriated by Moscow’s criticism of Yerevan’s decision to erect a statue to an Armenian activist who at one point found himself cooperating with Nazi Germany, Armenian commentators have pointed out the obvious: Moscow has no room to complain about that given that Stalin for almost two years was Hitler’s ally.
- Ukraine’s Opening of KGB Archives a Problem for Russia. Ukrainian officials say that materials in a KGB archive in Kyiv that they have now opened are creating serious problems for Russia because they provide information on programs and individual spy agents and informers which the Russian authorities have never acknowledged and in some cases may still be active.
- Gastarbeiters in Russia Sending Back to Central Asia Only One-Quarter as Much as before Crisis. Transfer payments by Central Asian gastarbeiters in Russia to their homelands are now only 25 percent of the amount that they were three years ago, a collapse with enormous consequences for the economies of many of the countries in that region.
- Occupation Powers in Crimea Erect Statue to ‘Polite People.’ The first soldiers in Vladimir Putin’s Anschluss of the Ukrainian peninsula now have their own memorial statue, erected by the occupation government.
- Railway from Mongolia Far Easier to Build to Tuva than One from Russia. In a reminder to those who ignore geography and especially topography, Tuvin commentators have pointed out that it will be far easier for a rail line to come to their republic from Mongolia than from the Russian Federation.
- “Just how bad is Russian economy?” and other neglected Russian stories
- “How many Putins are there?” and other neglected Russian stories
- “Jaw casts fill potholes in Siberia” and other neglected Russian stories
- “Chinese tourists laugh at Russia” and dozen more of neglected Russian stories