RUSSIA’S MINORITIES STILL MERIT CAPTIVE NATIONS STATUS. Many members of the ethnic minorities in the Russian Federation – and especially those in the Middle Volga region -- believe that they continue to deserve the status of “captive nations” as defined by the 1959 U.S. Congressional resolution (blogs.mail.ru/mail/kashapovrafis/). In a related development, the Russian Foreign Ministry lashed out at President George W. Bush for language in this year’s Captive Nations Week message that Moscow said equated Hitlerite fascism and Stalinism and thus insulted the Russian people (www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1007509).
REGIONAL OFFICIALS EXPECT LITTLE FROM MOSCOW’S PLAN, POLL SHOWS. Some 400 regional officials told pollsters from the State Analytic Center that they have little confidence in the government’s plan to support small and mid-sized firms in the region and thereby promote innovation. Such plans, the officials said, are underfunded and more hortatory than real (www.moscowtimes.ru/article/600/42/369666.htm). The answers of these officials are not surprising, but the fact that Moscow has asked this question formally for the first time is. If it is repeated, officials outside the Russian capital might begin to think of themselves as a corporate group, one potentially capable of forming a united front in policy disputes.
RUSSIA NEEDS NEW SYSTEM OF EXPERTISE ON RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM. Senior scholars at the Russian Academy of State Service which is attached to the Office of the President of the Russian Federation say that Moscow “must create a centralized institution” to draw on the expertise of the academic community concerning what is extremist and what is now, a task complicated they suggest by a plethora of laws, decrees, and judicial decisions now governing the use of such expertise (religion.ng.ru/society/2008-08-06/7_oko.html).
THE END OF ‘FRIENDSHIP OF THE PEOPLES’ IN TASHKENT. Uzbekistan has renamed the “Friendship of the Peoples” metro station in Tashkent, an action that some Central Asian commentators say highlights the extent to which President Islam Karimov is pursuing a nationalist agenda against ethnic minorities in his country. The station will now be called “Budyedkor,” an Uzbek word that can be translated as “The Creator.” This renaming of the metro station follows the removal last spring of the monument to Friendship of the Peoples from the center of the Uzbek capital to its outskirts (ferghana.ru/article.php?id=5813&PHPSESSID=6e9c35be67e50894ffb861cfb755795e).
NEW RULES WILL LET WEALTHIER RUSSIANS AVOID MILITARY SERVICE MORE EASILY. Under new rules, Russians subject to the draft will have the option of turning to doctors of their own choosing to determine whether they are fit to serve but only if they have the money to pay for such services. That almost certainly will mean that wealthier Russians will shop for doctors ready to declare them unfit, thus reducing the number of them called to service, making it more difficult for the Russian army to meet its quotas, and exacerbating class tensions with poorer groups who will lack the resources to take advantage of this new regulatory arrangement (www.gzt.ru/society/2008/08/06/223003.html).
ASHIROV ARTICLE BANNED AS EXTREMIST, SPARKING RUMORS HE’LL BE FIRED. A Russian court has found a pamphlet prepared by Mufti Nafigulla Ashirov, the head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) for Asiatic Russia, extremist and subject to ban, thus sparking rumors that the Russian government will launch a new campaign to drive him from office. Both he and his colleagues deny that he is about to go, but the case has a more intriguing aspect: The document the court declared extremist consisted of Ashirov’s judgment as to the extremist nature of another document, thus creating a kind of Catch-22 situation for the mufti (www.interfax-religion.ru/islam/?act=news&div=25922).
SALES OF MUSLIM CLOTHING FOR WOMEN RISING 5-10 PERCENT A YEAR IN RUSSIA. Measuring attachment to any religion is difficult; measuring attachment to Islam in a non-Islamic country perhaps especially so. But one indicator of the growth of the number and activity of the faithful is Muslim dress. A new survey shows that the sale of Muslim clothing for women is now rising at the rate of five to ten percent a year (http://www.islamnews.ru/news-13676.html).
GASTARBEITERS BUILD SHANTY TOWN OUTSIDE SAINT PETERSBURG. Migrant workers unable to find housing in the northern capital have build a shanty town outside Saint Petersburg to the horror of residents who have now seen pictures of it in the local media and fear that it will be a breeding ground for crime (http://www.fontanka.ru/2008/08/06/116/ and http://www.fontanka.ru/2008/08/05/062/). Such slum settlements exist elsewhere in the Russian Federation but have seldom attracted as much attention or generated as much anger as “New Petersburg” has.
RUSSIAN NATIONALIST ‘PATRIARCH’ MARKS 70TH BIRTHDAY WITH NEW BOOK. Vladimir Osipov, long known as “the patriarch of Russian nationalism” because the 15 years he spent in Soviet camps for his work with “Veche” and his advocacy of Russian nationalist ideas, is marking is 70th birthday with the release of a new book, “The Root of the Nation. Notes of a Russophile.” The new book is being published by Moscow’s Algoritm Press (www.algoritm-kniga.ru/patriarh-russkogo-natsionalizma.html).