Window on Eurasia Shorts for July 20 – Part II
BY DEFENDING DICTATORS, MOSCOW WON’T SAVE ITSELF, RUSSIAN SAYS. Russian officials clearly believe that, by defending Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe at the United Nations, they are protecting themselves against international supervision of their own increasingly authoritarian political system, according to Pavel Svyatenkov. But such a belief is doubly mistaken, the Russian nationalist writer says. On the one hand, it leads to actions that cause many in the West to look even more critically at what Moscow is doing. And on the other hand, it creates real dangers for the future of the country: “It is stupid and dangerous,” Svyatenkov argues, “to try to come to the aid of all degraded regimes in the entire world.” When the Russian empire did so, it sparked the Crimean war, he argues. The Soviet Union collapsed after pursuing a policy of making friends “with African dictators.” And contemporary Russia could go the same way if it pursues the same policy, Svyatenkov insists. “Perhaps,” he says, “it is time to stop supporting dictators and reflect over what we ourselves can bring to this world that is truly revolutionary” rather than a reaction to the real progress the West promotes (www.apn.ru/column/article20332.htm).
MOSCOW WANTS LARGER SAY OVER ARCTIC SHIPPING LANES. In announcing that Moscow will seek UN recognition next year of a larger economic exclusion zone in the Arctic, Artur Chilingarov, a Polar explorer who also serves in the Duma, stressed that Moscow is concerned not only with access to undersea mineral wealth but also with having a greater say over shipping in this region, a reflection of the new possibilities that global warming is opening up there (www.gzt.ru/politics/2008/07/08/144432.html).
FEW RUSSIANS USING INTERNET FOR POLITICAL INFORMATION. Even as the Russian government presses for new legislation that would declare the Internet a public medium and thus provide a legal basis for Moscow officials who want to prevent its being used against them (http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=911824), new research by the Levada Center shows that fewer than 10 percent of Russians use the relatively uncensored Russian Internet for political information (www.levada.ru/press/2008071701.html). The same research, however, found that differences in Internet use between Moscow and other cities have declined, although urban residents still go online twice as often as rural ones.
50 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS SMOKE, MEDEVEDEV SAYS. Russia now has the highest percentage of smokers in the world, President Dmitry Medvedev says, with public health officials there warning that smoking and high rates of alcohol consumption, both matters of personal choice, are “killing the Russian nation” (top.rbc.ru/society/14/07/2008/201056.shtml and www.utro.ru/articles/2008/07/14/751843.shtml).
CHECHEN AUTHOR SAYS HE DEFENDS RUSSIANS IN CHECHNYA, CHECHENS IN RUSSIA. In a comment to the Prague Watchdog site that has been picked up by many Russian internet petals, German Sadulayev, the author of the controversial book, “I am a Chechen” said that he is a man caught between two cultures. “In Chechnya, I have had to defend the honor of Russians and [elsewhere in Russia] I have had to do the same thing for the honor of Chechens”
RISING INFLATION PUSHES UP PERCENTAGE OF POOR IN RUSSIA. While overall inflation in the Russian Federation is 14 percent, for the country’s poorest residents who spend most of their incomes on food, the effective rate is now more than 25 percent, an increase that is boosting the number of people officially classified as poor to 20 million and spreading hardship across the country (www.b-port.com/news/archive/2008-07-14-20/).
ECOLOGISTS DENOUNCE MEDVEDEV’S SUPPORT FOR NUCLEAR POWER, PUTIN’S POLICIES FOR SOCHI GAMES. Russian ecologists blasted President Dmitry Medvedev for pushing nuclear power at the G-8 meeting in Japan (www.ecodefense.ru/view.php?id=553). Meanwhile, other Russian ecologists said that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had not gone nearly far enough in announcing plans to shift some of the controversial venues for the Sochi Olympics out of environmentally sensitive regions (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1225000.html). Indeed, some of them suggested that Putin had done what he had done only to avoid having UNESCO issue a finding against Moscow that might effectively kill those games (www.sobesednik.ru/archive/sb/26_2008/putin_zelen/). Those games may also be threatened by new ethnic tensions, the result of importing outside gastarbeiters to construct these sites (http://www.yuga.ru/news/128867/index.html).
AFGANTSY AND OTHERS WANTED TO KILL GORBACHEV, FORMER KGB OFFICIAL SAYS. Major General Viktor Aleynikov, the KGB officer who was in charge of the 9th Administration of that agency and thus responsible for the personal security of the USSR’s top leadership at the end of Soviet times, said that veterans of the Afghan war were among those who plotted to kill the first and last Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev whom they blamed for the inglorious end of Moscow’s campaign in Afghanistan and for the weakening of Soviet power more generally (www.mk.ru/blogs/MK/2008/07/10/society/361579/?%3E:CH5=85/).
90 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN MERCHANT MARINE SCHOOL GRADS WORK FOR FOREIGN COMPANIES. Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s deputy prime minister, said that Moscow is concerned that “only nine percent of Russian graduates of merchant marine schools work for the motherland” and that the Russian government is trying to figure out ways to ensure that those trained in Russia at government expense – more than 70 percent of those enrolled receive scholarship support of one kind or another -- will work for Russia upon graduation (www.regnum.ru/news/fd-nw/1024027.html).
MASS GRAVE OF SOVIET VICTIMS IN 1918 FOUND IN UDMURTIA. Researchers of the Academy of Sciences have found a mass grave containing the bodies of 7,000 workers from the Izhevsk and Votkinsk arms factories who were shot by local communists in 1918 after revolting against Soviet power (www.life.ru/video/4148). Not only was this the first great working class revolt against communism – many who escaped this killing field went on to fight in Admiral Kolchak’s White Russian armies – but because the Cheka in Lenin’s time was so proud of what it had done that it published lists in local papers of those it had liquidated. Consequently, scholars have long known who was killed but not where they were buried.