Below are a few news items from the last week about developments in the post-Soviet space that have been overshadowed by the Georgian events but that merit attention.
RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET FALLS BY NEARLY 50 PERCENT IN THIRD QUARTER…
As a result of the war in Georgia, declines in the price of oil and the flight of capital from developing countries as a result of the worldwide financial panic, the Russian stock exchange index fell by 47.8 percent in the third quarter, far more than any other equities market in the world (grani.ru/Politics/Russia/Cabinet/m.142167.html).
… AND MANY ECONOMISTS SAY MOSCOW HAS ONLY ITSELF TO BLAME. Andrei Illarionov, former Kremlin advisor and president of the Moscow Institute of Economic Analysis, says that the Russian authorities are to blame for most of the decline because of the way in which they have managed the Russian economy over the last ten years (www.barentsobserver.com/russia-to-blame-for-russian-crisis.4514847-16149.html). Other economists have echoed his view, arguing that “the consequences of the [current] crisis can be increased as a result of defects in the country’s economic and financial policies” (www.ng.ru/economics/2008-10-03/1_tezisy.html?mthree=1).
MOSCOW REPORTEDLY MOVES UNITS OF 58TH ARMY INTO INGUSHETIA. Ingush residents say that units of Russia’s 58th Army, which spearheaded Moscow’s invasion of Georgia, have now been shifted to Ingushetia, one of the most unstable republics in the north Caucasus (abkhazeti.info/news/1222890774.php). This report – and it has not been confirmed by Moscow – follows former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev’s call for the Russian government to intervene to stop what he calls “a slow-motion civil war” in Ingushetia (www.i-r-p.ru/page/stream-event/index-21906.html).
RUSSIA’S MUSLIMS STEP UP POLLITICAL PETITION DRIVE AFTER RAMADAN. Now that Ramadan is over, Russia’s Muslim leaders plan to step up their drive to collect signatures on a petition calling on Moscow to give their community a greater say in Russian political life and threatening to engage in civil disobedience if their demands are not met (www.nr2.ru/moskow/199179.html).
ECOLOGISTS AGAIN WARN PUTIN ON SOCHI OLYMPICS. Three ecological organizations – the Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus, the International Social-Ecological Union and the Sochi section of the Russian Geographic Society – have warned Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that his plans for the Sochi Olympic games will do irreparable harm to the natural environment in that region (www.izbrannoe.ru/46915.html).
ETHNIC RUSSIAN AREAS POSE GREATEST DEMOGRAPHIC PROBLEMS. The Russian Federation will never be able to overcome its massive demographic problems unless low fertility rates and increased mortality among people in predominantly ethnic Russian regions is addressed first, according to Leonid Rybakovsky of the Moscow Institute of Social-Political Research (www.demographia.ru/articles_N/index.html?idR=43&idArt=1232). Among the ideas some experts have been suggesting recently are reducing pensions to force people to have more children to take care of them or even pursuing a policy designed to shift the ethnic Russian population from cities to rural areas (www.apn.ru/publications/article20758.htm). Meanwhile, Moscow has announced that it will triple aid for the numerically small peoples of the North in the hopes of holding them in those under-populated regions near the increasingly critical Arctic Ocean (www.bclass.ru/news.php?i=11&n=418).
CENTRAL ASIANS, NOT CHINESE, SAID SOURCE OF ETHNIC CRIME IN FAR EAST. Most commentaries about ethnic problems in the Russian Far East have focused on the influx of ethnic Chinese, but a new report says that crime by migrants from Central Asian countries has now shot up 1000 percent in Primorsky kray and constitutes a far bigger social problem there than do the Chinese (deita.ru/?news,,,,116016).
ECONOMIC DIFFERENTIATION SEEN SPARKING SOCIAL PROTESTS. According to polls taken by the Levada Center, Russians who feel that they have been victimized by economic reforms either directly or because they are falling ever further behind those who have benefitted from such reforms say that they are increasingly prepared to take part in social and political protests (www.levada.ru/press/2008092902.html).
UNITED RUSSIA MAY SEND COMMISSARS INTO GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES. Several political clubs of the ruling United Russia party say that it should send commissars into government ministries to ensure that government officials do what the party and the Kremlin want, a revival of a Soviet-era practice (news.politsovet.ru/n_news.asp?article=26690).
MOSCOW TO CREATE JOURNALIST GROUP TO FIGHT CORRUPTION. The Russian government plans to create a federal agency consisting of investigative journalists and professional jurists to fight corruption across the country, according to officials at a meeting of journalists in Makhachkala. The agency would give the Russian government yet another means of controlling journalistic reporting (www.fontanka.ru/2008/09/26/061/).
YOUNG PEOPLE AND THEIR PARENTS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST DRAFT … Those facing the draft, their parents and anti-draft activists staged demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities at the start of the fall draft (www.sobkorr.ru/news/48DE21CD32E61.html). Meanwhile, the federal border service announced that it will dispense with all draftees by the end of 2008 (www.agentura.ru/?id=1222849080).
… WHILE SOCIAL CHAMBER PUSHES FOR RESTORING PRE-INDUCTION MILITARY TRAINING. Members of the Social Chamber say that Russia should re-introduce the Soviet-era practice of providing pre-induction military training in Russian schools to make it easier for draftees and volunteers to fit into military life (babr.ru/?pt=news&event=v1&IDE=47748).
‘THE OPTIMISTS ARE LEARNING ENGLISH; THE PESSIMISTS CHINESE.” The old Soviet joke had it that the optimists were learning English, the pessimists, Chinese, and the realists, the Kalashnikov. But now a study published in “Izvestiya nauki” reports that Chinese may overtake English as the foreign language of choice in Russia – but only some 50 years from now (www.nr2.ru/science/198375.html).