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‘Russia Disappearing from Radar Screen of Young Ukrainians’ and other neglected Russian stories

‘Russia Disappearing from Radar Screen of Young Ukrainians’ and other neglected Russian stories
Edited by: A. N.

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 each week presents a selection of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 103rd such compilation, and it is again a double issue with 26 from Russia and 13 from Russia’s neighbors. Even then, it is far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1. Putin Turns 65 While Fewer than Half of Russian Men Will Reach that Milestone

October 7 is Vladimir Putin’s 65th birthday, but because of super-high mortality among Russian males, only 43 percent of the men in his country will still be alive at that age, a sad reality Moscow outlets have pointed out in advance of Putin’s birthday (

Putin’s birthday was greeted in many ways by both those who wish him well and those who don’t. The most prominent action consisted of the anti-Putin Navalny demonstrations across Russia (, but others spoke out against the proposal from some to make Putin’s birthday a state holiday (, complained that Putin is giving billions to foreigners but not helping Russians (, speculated about the future including perhaps ominously where Putin will eventually be buried (, discussed the ways in which Putin memes have passed into the culture (, worried about the equation of Putin with Stalin (, and came up with various pro- and anti-Putin graffiti, signs and slogans (–07102017114000).

2. West Should Fear Russian Money, Not Russian Hackers, Bershidsky Says

Leonid Bershidsky, a prominent Russian journalist who now works for Bloomberg News, says the West is making a big mistake by focusing on the work of Russian hackers. Far more serious, he says, is the impact of the enormous flows of Russian money abroad, clean and otherwise, on businesses and governments abroad ( and

3. Despite Hyper-Centralization of Political System, Regions Playing Large Role in Campaign

Both despite and because the Russian political system is so centralized, opposition leaders and Vladimir Putin himself are devoting more attention to the country’s regions and republics. Yabloko Party’s Grigory Yavlinsky has followed Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Putin in traveling beyond Moscow’s ring road (, and Putin is currying favor in the regions by writing off the debt of hard-pressed regions ( and

Other political developments of significance this week included:

  • A poll showing 67 percent of Russians are ready to vote for Putin, nearly 20 percent fewer than say they support him (,
  • The Kremlin has imposed a spiritual test on those it may appoint as governors (,
  • The fraudulence of any investigation involving Chechnya was thrown into high relief (,
  • The Supreme Court called for a massive overhaul of the judicial system to make precedents more important and judgments more consistent (,
  • Navalny says that nothing has changed in the Russian political system since Stalin’s times except that the regime doesn’t shoot people anymore (,
  • The Nationalities Agency reorganized perhaps in advance of becoming a ministry (,
  • The Kremlin said that there is no reason to fire the culture minister despite the finding that he plagiarized his dissertation ( and, and
  • A study has found that Russian athletes who enter politics are even more inclined to be repressive than others (

4. Putin Achieving What Brezhnev Did: Russia as Upper Volta With Missiles

Numerous commentators described the Soviet Union in its last years as “Upper Volta with Missiles.” Now, scholars at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics say that under Putin, Russia has been declining to the point that it is now at the level of a third world country, except of course for its military (

Even Vladimir Putin acknowledged that poverty has increased in Russia, although he blamed what has happened in the last several years on events in the 1990s ( and

Other figures released this week also highlight Russia’s decline:

  • The number of Russians in all key categories of the economy have declined (,
  • Rising incomes have occurred only in the capitals and oil and gas centers (, and
  • Russians in many places have concluded that there is no money and therefore no reason to produce anything (

Those close to Putin and at the very top, of course, continue to do well just as some elites in the Third World do. The 28 Russian billionaires have seen their wealth increase by 24 billion US dollars since the start of 2017 (

5. Russian Finance Ministry Says Ruble Will Decline Through 2035

Finance ministry officials project that the ruble will decline against other currencies for the next 18 years ( A commentator says sanctions have held Russia back for 20 years (, and other experts say that the Russian government will soon run out of all reserves (

Western banks are leaving Russia ( and Russian farms and farmers are disappearing ( Statistics suggest that Russia has fallen behind the West at an increasing pace over the last ten years (

Company towns are still dying as is the market for real estate ( and And nearly three Russians out of four say that privatization was carried out in the wrong way and should be revisited or even reversed (

6. Russians Fight to Get Into Jail, Use Sex to Pay for Rent, and Turn to Fortune Tellers

There are many ways to measure the desperation of a population, but three reports this week suggest that an increasing number of Russians feel that way:

  • Some are attacking police in order to get arrested and be sentenced to prison where at least they will be fed (,
  • Russian women are increasingly offering sexual favors to pay for rent (, and
  • Russians are now spending two billion rubles (30 million US dollars) on fortune tellers who they hope can tell them something good is coming (

Ever more Russians are homeless, many are living on their credit cards, and all are facing rising prices for basic commodities like fish (,, and

7. Transportation Network Collapsing

The failure of many of the so-called “baby Aeroflots” has allowed the surviving company to cut routes and raise fares thus making it more difficult for people in many parts of Russia to travel (

Even worse, at least in terms of the number of people affected, budgetary stringencies have led to the collapse of public transportation of all kinds in cities and regions throughout the country ( and This collapse is especially significant because Russian roads remain among the worst in the world, ranked 114th among all countries and worse than those in neighboring Mongolia or in the African country of Burundi ( and

Teachers, once a highly respected and relatively well paid group in Russia, have lost their status and pay advantages and now are thinking about a mass strike ( and

8. Putin’s Health ‘Optimization’ Program Killing People Now and Setting Stage for More Deaths in Future

Vladimir Putin’s cutbacks in spending on healthcare, reductions that are slated to remain in place for years (, are killing people right now by depriving them of access to needed care and setting the stage for more deaths later because they are leading to reductions in the training of needed specialists (

The elderly and those living in rural areas are being especially hard hit ( and But mortality among adult males is high and in many areas even rising (, and the only reason the country’s demographic numbers aren’t worse is to be found among the predominantly Muslim gastarbeiters and non-Russian nations within the Russian Federation (

9. Muscovites Divided on Whether Gastarbeiters Should Assimilate or Remain Distinct

A new study concludes that residents of the Russian capital are deeply divided between those who would like to see the predominantly Muslim gastarbeiters there assimilate to the Russian nation or remain completely distinct (

There is also controversy over groups like Kamchatka’s Chamadaltsy that are formally part of the numerically small peoples of the North but who speak Russian and are heavily intermarried with ethnic Russians (

In other news from the nationalities front:

  • A Buryat region is in almost open revolt against its rulers (,
  • The Agin district, which Putin amalgamated with a neighboring Russian region, is promoting its distinctive identity with statues of its Duma deputy Kobzon and prominent native sons and daughters (,
  • Karachayevo-Cherkessia marked the anniversary of the day it elevated itself to the status of a republic and not to the earlier one when it became an ASSR (,
  • Tensions between the Avars and Kumyks of Daghestan are heating up (,
  • Russia’s Roma are now involved in trading counterfeit crypto money (, and
  • Ruslan Gvashev, the Shapsug activist, has ended his hunger strike as his court date has been postponed (

10. Russian Officials Struggle to Define Putin’s Language Policy

Facing resistance from non-Russians to any change, pressure from Russian speakers for immediate action, and the absence of guidance from the Kremlin on exactly what Putin wants, Moscow officials are struggling to come up with a policy that will guide language policies in the schools, with some urging that two languages be taught at one and the same time, a major immediate concession to the non-Russian republics but one that could carry with it a threat to their languages over time (,, and

11. ‘All Separatism is Good Unless It Touches Russia which is Always About to Fall Apart,’ Nevzorov Says

Moscow commentator Aleksandr Nevzorov gives that as an explanation why Moscow is always promoting separatism in other countries but opposing it in Russia ( Moscow is clearly ever more worried about regionalism and separatism be it in the non-contiguous Kaliningrad where Germans are ever more active ( and or in the Russian Far East where neighboring China currently accounts for 80 percent of foreign direct investment (

Russian commentators also are concerned about people in the regions complaining about funding Crimea by taking money away from them and about unfunded liabilities that the center imposes without checking with them ( and

12. Russian Officials Step Up Repression of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Experts say that Russian officials are increasing their repression against the Jehovah’s Witnesses and may begin to increase it against other religious minorities, a step especially dangerous because many police do not understand critical distinctions among the various faiths (,, and

In other religious news:

  • The Muslims of Kaliningrad are being offered a new place for their mosque (,
  • Middle Volga Muslims push for gender equality (,
  • The Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate says attacks on theology as a scientific discipline are a survival of the Soviet past (, and
  • Patriarch Kirill says the world does not need to fear strong Islam but rather weak Christianity (

13. Navalny Protest This Week Only One of Many

The Navalny demonstrations attracted the most attention, but there were numerous other protests in Russia.

Among the most interesting were:

  • A demonstration in Sakha against extending the boundaries of a national park (,
  • A memorial on the 11th anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder (,
  • A Russian nationalist gathering which demanded the closing of the Yeltsin Center (,
  • A protest against government censorship of Youtube (,
  • A Karelian democracy gathering (,
  • A Karelian action against a wealthy Russian who bought a farm and then allowed its animals to starve (,
  • A Moscow demonstration in support of Crimean Tatar political prisoners (,
  • Eight social actions (,
  • A protest in Cherkassk against official neglect of the Holocaust (, and
  • A Nizhny Novgorod demonstration in support of freedom of assembly (

14. Russians’ Ignorance of Stalinist Past Opens Way for a Stalinist Future

A quarter of all Russians and half of younger ones say they do not know anything about Stalin’s repressive policies, although 53 percent of the total sample say innocent people suffered under the Soviet dictator (, and That they know so little is the result of official policy designed to conceal his crimes, including closing archives, editing books, and stripping some of those who investigated the crimes of his period of academic degrees (,, and

Moscow is increasingly targeting repressive measures at the Navalny campaign (, and

Among other developments:

  • The Russian law banning mirror sites has entered into force (,
  • The agency overseeing the media has set up a special blocking laboratory (,
  • The Duma is planning to increase penalties on those who make false reports about terrorist acts (,
  • The Russian government is increasing penalizing people for intentions without any action (,
  • Some Duma members want to give the authorities power to block web sites without waiting for a court ruling ( and to block websites that call for people to attend meetings the authorities haven’t given clearance for (, and
  • The authorities are increasingly taking actions against foreign corporations and especially foreign news agencies operating in Russia (, and

15. A Million Russians have Been Evacuated as Result of Bomb Scares

Over the last month, more than a million Russians have been evacuated from buildings in which, anonymous telephone callers say, bombs have been planted. No bombs have been found but the authorities have little choice but to take these warnings seriously ( and The FSB says it has identified four Russians who have made the calls from abroad ( and

Despite this, a poll shows that Russians are less worried about terrorism now than they were earlier in the year ( There is growing concern among officials, however. A court has ordered a newspaper to suppress an article about how to make bombs from readily available materials (, and the defense ministry has ordered soldiers not to use their cellphones to take selfies (

There has been a wave of retail violence against businessmen and by older people ( and

In other domestic security news:

  • Articles appeared about how young men are avoiding the draft by posing as gays ( and,
  • Treatment of prisoners is deteriorating now that officials are blocking rights activists from visiting places of confinement (,
  • Some media outlets are suggesting that the Daghestani soldier who killed three of his comrades in the Far East was interested in ISIS (,
  • Visitors to cemeteries count more combat deaths than Moscow is reporting (,
  • An ISIS cell was unmasked in Moscow (, and
  • Police without housing complained to Putin that this was the direct result of his spending on Crimea (

16. Russians Training Swedish Nazis at Camp Near St. Petersburg

Swedish media are reporting that members of Swedish Nazi groups are being trained at a camp near St. Petersburg in Russia ( and, reports that seem especially ominous because Russian outlets are reporting that Alland Islanders want independence from Finland (

Russian commentators say Moscow should be upset by the second season of “Occupied” about a supposed Russian occupation of Norway ( Meanwhile, the European Human Rights Court has ruled against Moscow on coverage of the Kursk incident (

17. Moscow Hiding More of Its Defense Spending

According to RBC, Russia has classified nearly 40 percent of its military spending, the highest level in the 12 years the agency has monitored it ( Meanwhile, Aleksey Kudrin says that the militarization of the budget is harming the Russian economy (

Another way Moscow is hiding its military activities is by using various mercenary groups in Syria ( The Russian government has also thumbed its nose at the US over North Korea, allowing Pyongyang to link to the Internet via Russia and doubling its trade with that country ( and

Meanwhile, officials report more problems with Russian rockets ( and, and serious shortcomings in Russia’s research fleet and the navy’s global communications system ( and

And an independent analysis suggests the Kremlin’s much-ballyhooed Youth Army is largely useless (

18. Russia Still has 6559 Lenin Streets

Russia’s cities and towns still have 6559 Lenin Streets, far outstripping anyone else (

Stalin busts are faring less well: one was put in a parking lot, and other is being challenged by city officials ( and

In Tobolsk, activists are building a museum on the Imperial Family (

Other monument news this week of note:

  • Sverdlovsk oblast has put up a monument to the natural and technological disasters of Russian history (,
  • The Udmurts have put up a monument to their pagan groves (, and
  • Environmental activists succeeded in putting a respirator on one statue but were blocked from doing so on another ( and

19. Western Special Services Said Working to Exclude Russian Athletes from Competitions

Despite upbeat statements by FIFA and Vladimir Putin ( and, Russia faces uphill problems in preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and has selected its usual tactic in such situations: it is blaming Western intelligence services for what is happening. These services, some Russians say, are working within Russia to delay completion of venues and abroad to blacken the reputation of Russian athletes and fans (

In fact, Russian athletes may be excluded from international competitions and Russia may be stripped as a host not by a concerted international effort but by the actions of individual sports organizations (, and

But there are plenty of problems inside Russia as well:

  • The Nizhny Novgorod venue stadium suffered a major fire (,
  • One venue had to be partially destroyed to allow for more seats to be added (,
  • Doping issues continue to be much discussed (, and
  • Moscow is trying to figure out how to make Russian football fans more tolerant and polite (

Russia did make one announcement this week that will reassure some and frighten others: If the World Cup does take place in Russia next year, Cossacks will guard the venues and protect visitors (

20. Navalny is Exactly Where Putin is on the Nationality Question

Alexei Navalny has positions on the nationality question, including the statue of republics and language use in schools, that are identical to those of Vladimir Putin. While those views may win support among ethnic Russians, they are one of the reasons why Navalny has attracted fewer people to his cause in the North Caucasus, the Middle Volga and in other non-Russian areas (

21. Invalids Can’t Attend Roundtable on Accessibility Because There’s No Elevator

Russian officials continue to do things that undercut whatever message they are trying to send. In a case this week, they scheduled a meeting on accessibility issues but held it in a room on the upper floor of a building without an elevator (

22. IMF Says Russia Will Benefit from Global Warming

The International Monetary Fund says that Russia will be among the countries that benefit from climate change, with more land being available for agriculture and human residence and the Northern Sea Route more open to shipping ( If Moscow believes that, it may be less willing to support efforts to limit global warming.

Meanwhile, other experts are less sure: they think that the situation in Russia may deteriorate with the melting of permafrost and note that Russia’s northern location means that it really should have only 57 million residents and not the 140 million it has now (

23. Was Russia’s Civil War in Fact Red, White and Blue?

Attention to the Russian Civil War which followed the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 is bringing to the fore many events of that conflict that few had ever paid much attention to. Most people know that the war was between the Reds (Bolsheviks) and the Whites (anti-Bolshevik groups of various stripes).

A few know that there were also the Greens, peasant uprisings against rule by either of these. But now historians are talking about the Blues, a group that wanted to overcome all these divisions (

24. Russian Media Coverage of Playboy Founder’s Death Decried

Russian traditionalists have denounced the mainstream Russian media for giving almost as much attention to the death of Hugh Hefner as did their Western counterparts. Not only did he do nothing good for Russia, they say; but all his actions undermined traditional values (

25. Kirov Businessman Comes Up with New Way to Make Money – Selling Air

Capitalism unrestrained by any judgment or values other than the pursuit of money certainly encourages inventive ideas. Now a Kirov businessman is seeking profit by trying to sell air in bottles (

26. Are Russians about to Adopt a WASP-Like Identity?

Some Americans identify themselves as White Anglo-Saxon Protestants or WASPs. Now a Russian commentator has proposed that Russians identify as RISPs, an acronym which stand for “Russian Imperial Soviet Orthodox” (


And 13 more from countries in Russia’s neighborhood:

1. Russia Disappearing from Radar Screen of Young Ukrainians, Moscow Observer Says

Young Ukrainians are no longer fixated on Russia as their parents often were and instead look to Europe and other parts of the world, a shift that will make it far harder to restore the kind of relations the Kremlin wants than any particular policies Kyiv adopts (

2. 48 Political Prisoners in Russian-Occupied Crimea

The Russian occupation forces have incarcerated at least 48 people whom international rights groups now identify as political prisoners (

Another plague spreading on the Ukrainian peninsula since the Russians annexed it is diptheria (

3. Moscow Selling Coal from Donbas on International Markets

In yet another violation of international law, the Russian government is selling coal mined in the Russian-occupied portions of Ukraine’s Donbas region to international customers (

4. As Ukraine’s Fall Draft Opens, 54 Percent of Ukrainians Say They’re Ready to Defend Their Country with Arms in Their Hands

Ukraine has now begun its fall draft, and a new poll shows that more than half of the people of Ukraine are quite prepared to take up arms to defend their country against the aggression of others (

5. Hungary, Angered by Kyiv’s Language Law, Backing Separatism in Western Ukraine

The Hungarian authorities are furious at Ukraine for a new law that will reduce Hungarian-language instruction in Ukrainian schools and are providing ever more encouragement to ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine to demand special rights for their region (

6. Estonia Set to Become First Country in the World to Adopt Law on Robots

Estonia which has taken the lead in many high-tech fields is now set to become the first country in the world to adopt a law governing what robots can and can’t do, an action that will no doubt be followed with interest by other countries facing the robotics revolution (

7. Sheikh ul Islam Under Fire in Azerbaijan

Allashakyur Pashazade, the Shiite sheikh ul Islam and head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate of the Caucasus, is coming under increasing fire not only for his personal behavior but for his Shiite faith and Lezgin ethnic roots, something that could presage his replacement and send shock waves through the Shiite communities not only of Azerbaijan but throughout the former Soviet space (

8. Baku Arrests 61 Gay Rights Activists

The Azerbaijani government has arrested 61 LGBT rights activists, thus becoming the latest post-Soviet state to follow the Chechen and Russian pattern of repression against “non-traditional” sexual behavior (

9. 25 Percent of Those Infected with HIV in Central Asia Avoiding Treatment

Because of the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS in Central Asia, experts say that one in every four of those infected in that region is avoiding medical treatment and thus setting the stage for a new epidemic (

10. Ashgabat Restricts to 100 US Dollars Amount Turkmens Can Take Abroad

In yet another action by what is the most repressive regime among the post-Soviet states, Turkmenistan’s government has decreed that no Turkmen may take more than 100 US dollars abroad without special permission, thus giving the authorities there yet another means to keep their population in line (

11. Bishkek Talking to Moscow about Second Russian Base

Talks are proceeding between Kyrgyz and Russian officials about the establishment of a second Russian military base in that Central Asian country, a new military facility that reports say would be located in the troubled southern portion of the country (

12. Kazakh Scientists Come Up with Reusable Toilet Paper

Scientists in Kazakhstan have come up with what they say is an environmentally friendly product: toilet paper that can be used again and again by simply washing it each time it is used. There is no word yet on whether this is likely to catch on (

13. Bigamy on the Rise in Tajikistan

The increasing influence of Islam on social practices in Tajikistan is manifested in a rising tide of bigamy and even polygamy among people there, sociologists say (

That is part of a broader struggle in Central Asian countries between modernists and traditionalists, with each of those groups now split over such questions (

Edited by: A. N.
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