NOTE TO READERS: “Window on Eurasia” was never intended to be a comprehensive report on developments in post-Soviet societies. But with the demise of RFE/RL’s Newsline, there are more stories that deserve to be reported to a broader audience than are receiving it. Consequently, I have decided to put out each Friday a set of shorter reports -- perhaps what the Russians would call “fortochki” -- in order to call attention to provide sources for at least some of these stories. Paul Goble
1. Russian Human Rights Activists Call on Medvedev to Release Political Prisoners. Russia’s leading human rights activists have issued a joint appeal to new President Dmitry Medvedev to release political prisoners now being held in Russian prisons and camps, thereby testing his commitment to the rule of law. Their appeal is available at www.zaprava.ru/content/view/1511/1/ and the list of prisoners, with brief biographers, can be found at www.zaprava.ru/hronica/Spravka.pdf.
2. Russia to Move Prisons Out of City Centers, Expand Them as Well. Prison officials in Russia say that they will shift prisons now located in the center of some cities there to the rural areas in order to expand them and to allow the land on which they are now situated to be used for other things (www.caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=14253).
3. Shanghai Cooperation Organization Mulls Rules for Expansion. Experts at the SCO are currently meeting to develop rules that the member countries of that grouping may use to accept new members (www.agentura.ru/?id=1211189460).
4. ‘Nashi’ Activists to Teach Orthodoxy in Russian City Schools. The pro-Putin youth movement “Nashi” has announced that some of its members will teach courses on Russian Orthodoxy in the schools of 10 Russian cities this fall, an indication of the likely impact of such courses on those who are not Orthodox or who are troubled by Russian nationalism (www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=monitor&id=12258).
5. Armenians Seek Autonomy in Georgia. At a time when Georgia hardly needs more problems, Armenians there at the urging of the nationalist Dashnaktsutiun are calling on Tbilisi to give them autonomy (www.caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=14240).
6. Daghestanis Protest Plans to Close Charitable Hospital. Residents of Makhachkala organized a demonstration to demand that officials reverse their plans to close the republic’s only charitable hospital. The FSB has sought its closure claiming that its staff are promoting radical Islam. Local officials have now backed down: they say the hospital can remain open if it pays rent, something that the hospital says it is unable to do (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1217018.html).
7. Moscow Gives Minsk Russia’s Exit Watch List. The Russian government has handed over to Belarus a list of some 200,000 people who it will not permit to leave the country, thus blocking one way some of them had tried to leave, given the limited formalities at the Russian-Belarusian border (www.embassybel.ru/news/policy/2008/05/22/17411/).