Sunday, July 20, 2008

Window on Eurasia Shorts for July 20 -- Part I

NOTE: This issue of “Shorts” is larger than usual and thus divided into three parts because, as a result of the compiler’s illness, it covers events over the last two weeks rather than only one.

RUSSIA SHOULD NOT BE IN THE G-8, BONNER AND BUKOVSKY SAY.. In an open letter to the two presumptive candidates for president of the United States, Elena Bonner and Vladimir Bukovsky called on them to “re-think U.S. policies in many areas, including your relations with Moscow” and as part of that to expel Russia from the G-8. “The present regime in Russia is not just authoritarian,” they write, “it is also increasingly aggressive. It has been bad enough to witness massive human rights abuses, torture, political repressions and political assassinations in Russia, as well as ongoing genocide in the North Caucasus.” Now, “like in the times of the Cold War, the Kremlin once again poses a grave threat to international security. Bullying its neighbors, interfering into their domestic affairs, using energy exports as a tool of political blackmail, providing aid and comfort to every enemy of the free world, unleashing massive hate-mongering propaganda campaign at home against the West, duplicitous position regarding Iran’s nuclear program, supplying Israel’s neighbors with arms- this behavior leaves no doubt about the real face of the regime” (

MEDVEDEV REAFFIRMS RUSSIA IS ‘PART OF MUSLIM WORLD.’ During his visit to Baku on July 8, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told religious leaders there that his country “in which live 20 million followers of Islam is a multi-confessional country and in this sense is part of the Muslim world.” He added that “the majority of [Russians] are Orthodox but the state has always respected and will respect other confessions as well. In this is the key to well-being” (

ISLAMISTS NOW RECRUITING IN UNIVERSITIES, SPORTS CENTERS, NOT IN MOSQUES. Although both Russian officials and Muslim leaders in the North Caucasus insist that there are fewer and fewer members of the faithful responding to the calls of extremist groups (, Daghestani interior ministry officers say that Islamist groups are now seeking to recruit young people not in mosques but in universities and sports centers and sometimes “simply on the street,” a shift that reflects both greater official supervision of the mosques and may account for claims that Islamists are having less success among Muslims (

MOSCOW’S EXTREMIST LIT LIST NOW TOPS 150 TITLES. Russian courts continue to declare various books and articles extremist, and the consolidated list maintained by the justice ministry now includes 151 titles (

SAKHA HAS HIGHEST YOUTH SUICIDE RATE IN WORLD – BUT REPORTING THAT IS DANGEROUS. Driven by poverty, isolation, and despair, young people in Sakha are committing suicide at a higher rate than any other community in the world, according to official figures there. But when Sakha blogger Ukhkhan (the screen name of Yakutsk journalist I.V. Nikolayev) reported that on his site, prosecutors there called him in and said they were opening a criminal case against him for publishing materials that are “discrediting” local officials (
BOOK ON SIBERIAN MUSLIMS TO BE PULPED BECAUSE OF CHURCH PICTURES. A publisher included pictures of Orthodox churches rather than Tatar mosques in a new book on the Tatars of Siberia, an action that the firm’s officials could not explain but that is forcing the authors to pulp the book. Despite their mistake and the loss of the entire tirage, the publisher is insisting that the authors of the book pay for publication, possibly setting the precedent for yet another way to restrict media freedom and the actions of groups the Russian authorities do not approve of (

DAGHESTANI MUSLIMS NEED DOUBLING OF HAJ SLOTS. Daghestan needs far more slots for the haj than the Russian government haj commission has assigned it this year, even though Daghestani Muslims have been allotted 8,000 of the 20,500 places that Saudi officials have given to the Russian Federation. According to Makhachkala travel agents, the number of Muslims in that North Caucasus republic who would like to go on the haj at the end of this year is at least 15,000 (

RUSSIAN FIRMS PRESSURE REGIME NOT TO FILL REGULATORY SLOTS. Russian corporations have pressured senior Russian politicians not to fill slots in a part of the FSB that oversees economic activities, according to intelligence analyst Andrei Soldatov. The success of their efforts underscores the emergence of yet another kind of interpenetration of the public state and nominally private corporate interests (

ANOTHER WAY TO HIDE ELECTION FALSIFICATION IN RUSSIA. According to “Vedomosti,” the Russian government plans to prohibit officials of the country’s Central Election Commission from speaking with reporters unless they have advance permission from the leaders of that agency, a move that reflects Moscow’s restrictions on information of all kinds and that would make it more difficult for the media to cover official falsification of elections ( and

GLASNOST COULD KILL PATRIARCHATE JUST AS IT KILLED THE SOVIET UNION. A Moscow commentator provides yet another explanation for why the Moscow Patriarchate is opposed to the convention of a church council to discuss the situation in Russian Orthodoxy, an idea that Bishop Diomid has advanced. According to Aleksei Mazan’ko, if the Russian Church ever allowed a broad public discussion of its problems, it would die just as the Soviet Union did when Mikhail Gorbachev introduced glasnost (

Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians are “clustering” in particular neighborhoods in Moscow not so much because of their desire to live among their co-ethnics but rather for broader socio-economic factors like educational and economic success, according to Olga Vendina, a geographer at the Academy of Sciences. Armenians, she said, tend to live in more prestigious portions of Moscow like the Arbat, Toparevo-Nikulino, and Tverskaya because so many of the members of that community are part of the intelligentsia, while Azerbaijanis tend to have significantly lower educational attainments and thus live in the capital’s traditional “working class” areas like Kuntsevo, Lyublino, and Kapotno (

EUROPEANS READY TO PAY EXTRA NOT TO SPEND VACATIONS WITH RUSSIANS. Surveys conducted by French and German sociologists have found that Europeans are prepared to pay extra to avoid being in the same resorts in Egypt and Turkey patronized by Russian travelers, a willingness that has led some tour operators in the European Union to offer special “tours without Russians” programs (

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