Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Russian Liberals and the West Fought the Wrong Enemy in the 1990s, Krasheninnikov Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 24 – Throughout the 1990s, Russian liberals and their Western backers feared that the communist party would destroy democracy and completely failed to see that the real threat was emerging from a very different direction: those officers of the security services who fought democracy in Soviet times and wanted to do so again, Fedor Krasheninnikov says.

            In a commentary in today’s “Vedomosti,” the Yekaterinburg political analyst points out that “the ‘liberal’ establishment” of the first decade of post-Soviet Russia focused on the communists and other marginal figures as the greatest threat to democracy in Russia (vedomosti.ru/opinion/columns/2016/08/24/654237-mest-pobezhdennih).

            “Who would then have believed,” Krasheninnikov asks, “that the true restorers of everything bad that was in the Soviet political and economic system would come to power not from below, from some kind of ‘left-wing’ party or movement but from behind the scenes of the ‘democratic’ powers that be themselves?” 

            KPRF Gennady Zyuganov, “who proudly carried the banner of Soviet revanchism in the years of almost official anti-Sovietism, quickly demonstrated his hopelessness and the lack of prospects of this movement, time and again losing elections to Yeltsin and to his successor,” the Yekaterinburg commentator says.

            In fact, Kraasheninnikov continues, it was not the communists but others who were the creators of the new-old ideology that dominates Russia today. The communists and those who shared their views thus have remained “on the sidelines of public policy” and have been forced to adopt the “revanchist” slogans of the ruling party.

            If one examines the top leaders of Russia today, “it is impossible not to note that one is speaking about an extremely narrow circle of people. And these are not former party workers nor Soviet bureaucrats without work as instructors” of communist ideology.” Indeed, they are “not bearers of Marxism-Leninism or any other ideology.”

            Instead, Krasheninnikov points out, the leaders of Russia today are “the former officers of the Soviet secret policy,” those who helped erect the Potemkin village of Soviet democracy, knew the arts of manipulation and information war, and had experience in the suppression of democratic movements.

            Few in Russia or the West wanted to talk about the need for lustration in 1991 and even fewer do today, forgetting that it is “hardly a synonym for extra-judicial repression and revenge.” Instead, it is “a limitation of the right to occupy specific political positions for persons immediately connected with the criminal activity of the past regime.”

                Consequently, there was no lustration and no restrictions on the serving personnel of Soviet totalitarianism.  From this vantage point it is clear that even if such a policy had been adopted and applied in an extremely restricted way, “the history of Russia in the 21st century would have developed in a completely different direction.”

            And that underlines “the truth that not communist ideology delivered a blow to the back of Russian democracy but rather Soviet administrative practice and specifically those who were occupied with it directly and at a low level.”  Such people, it turns out, “simply didn’t know how to act differently” and when they could “did everything for the return” of the familiar system.

                “It is difficult to understand the logic,” he says, “by which the way was opened to the leading posts in post-Soviet Russia for those who for several years before the destruction of the USSR were occupied with the struggle against private initiative and methodically trampled the most elementary human rights while working in the Soviet punitive organs.”

            Nevertheless, Krasheninnikov says, “precisely that is what happened: the former guards of Soviet totalitarianism got the chance to make dizzying careers in the new order.” They far more than the communists have been responsible for the turning away from democracy and toward the Soviet past.

Belarus on Its Way to Becoming the Next Ukraine, Russian Nationalist Commentator Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 24 – Many Russian nationalists have comforted themselves with the notion that Belarus is “’more Russia than Russia itself,’” Vladimir Zotov says; but recent events and particularly the readiness of Belarusians to fight against Russia in Ukraine show that Russia’s western neighbor is rapidly becoming the next Ukraine, anti-Russian in the extreme.

            Indeed, he argues, “the complete absence of Russia in the humanitarian, cultural and media spheres of Belarus, with which it officially is in a political union is logically leading to the adoption by the locally politicized youth of an openly anti-Russian identity on the Ukrainian model” (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=35373).

            And as a result, he continues, “even bearers of Russian first names, last names and genes [among the young in Belarus] not simply accept this: they are ready to kill for it.  Very soon, representatives of this age category will form the majority in the Belarusian powers that be. And that we will hear the next ‘never will we be brothers’” from a new direction.

            After that, of course, “the machine guns will begin to sound.”

            With the passing of the older generation and the rise of the new, Zotov says, Belarusians are changing their identities even though “the overwhelming majority of them speak and think in Russian.”  That has meant a growth in Russophobia among the politicized part of the population, something “the official authorities at a minimum haven’t blocked.”

            Zotov draws these conclusions on the basis of his analysis of the fact that Belarusians are fighting on both sides in Ukraine and Minsk so far has treated them the same rather than viewing those who are fighting for Russia as acting in accord with the requirements of the union state and those who are fighting for Ukraine as acting against it.

            “Many Belarusians who are in the units of the LNR and DNR,” he says, “wear Russian (but not Belarusian) flags on their uniforms, while their opponents [on the Ukrainian side] always use the standard Belarusian nationalist symbols, the white-red-white flag and the Horseman shield.”

            Those Belarusians fighting for Ukraine are “all supporters of radical nationalism and are ready to lay down their lives in the struggle against the Russian world. One of the most widespread motivations,” Zotov says, is the desire “to stop Russia in Ukraine so that it won’t seize Belarus, since, in the opinion of Belarusian radicals, the Kremlin dreams only about this.”

            “’I did not go to fight for the freedom of Ukraine,’” Zotov quotes one of their number as saying.  “’I did so for the freedom of Belarus’” because “if the Horde isn’t hit in the face here in the Donbass, it will go further – and Belarus, I am absolutely convinced will be swallowed up like Crimea in a couple of days.’”

            What is striking about this, the Russian commentator says, is that “the majority of the personages have normal Russian last names and think in Russia. More than that, until recently, the basic mass of Belarusian ultra-rightists and fanatics stood in the main on all-Russian positions. However, lately, the situation has changed.”

            In short, although Zotov does not say this, anti-Russian attitudes in Belarus have spread from the liberal intelligentsia, the normal object of attack by Moscow writers, to the right-wing nationalists, an indication of the growing power of Belarusian nationalism and thus a threat to Russia’s position there

            According to the Russian commentator, Alyaksandr Lukashenka is of two minds about the Belarusians who are fighting in Ukraine. One the one hand, it is clear, he values his relations with Kyiv. But on the other, he equally clearly feels threatened by the return to Belarus of combat veterans of either side.

            That explains why Minsk officials routinely talk about arresting such people without being specific as to which side they were fighting, a situation that has led those on each side to think their supporters are being victimized more than the other and thus have become heroes for one position or the other.

            As a result, some Belarusians who have fought for Ukraine are taking Ukrainian citizenship and remaining there, Zotov says. And it is likely the case, although he doesn’t mention it, that some Belarusians who have fought for the Russian side are taking Russian citizenship and  heading to that country.

             

Non-Russians Won More than Half of Russia’s Gold Medals at Rio

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 24 – Even though officially they do not form more than a fifth of Russia’s population, members of non-Russian nations won ten of the 19 gold medals the Russian Federation took home from the Rio Olympiad as well as eight (or nine if one counts Cossack Nikita Nagorny as non-Russian)of the 19 silver and three of the 19 bronze the Russian team won.

            In reporting this, the Nazaccent portal argues the international composition of the Russian winners “was always our strength,” referring to the past when non-Russians from across the USSR and then across the Russian Federation won far more victories than their share in the population might have suggested (nazaccent.ru/content/21672-zoloto-rossijskoj-nacii.html).

            But at a time when Vladimir Putin constantly talks about “the Russian world” and when many Russians and some in the West accept the Kremlin’s claim that the Russian Federation is a Russian nation state rather than a conglomerate of various peoples, some Russians may no longer see this as a strength but rather as a threat.

            However that may be, it is worth noting this ethnic composition of the Russian victories given that the Russian and international media have given far more attention to the total number of medals Russia won and the ranking of that country in terms of medal count behind the US, the UK and China.

            Below is a list of the non-Russian athletes who took home medals from the Rio games:

Gold

Beslan Murdranov, Kabardinian, Judo
Khasan Khalmurzayev, Ingush, Judo
Davit Chakvetadze, Georgian, wrestling
Abdulrashid Sadulayev, Avar, boxing
Soslan Ramonov, Osetin, wrestling
Yana Yegoryan, Armenian, fencing
Artur Akhmatkhuzin, Tatar, fencing
Aliya Mustafina, “half-Tatar” in her own words, gymnastics
Margarita Mamun, “half Russian, half Bengali” in her own words, gymnastics

Silver

Inna Stepanova, Buryat, archery
Tuyana Dashidorzhiyeva, Buryat, archery
Aliya Mustafina, “half-Tatar” in her own words, gymnastics
Natalya Vorobyova, “half-Legin,” boxing
Abiuar Geduyev, Kabardinian, boxing
Mikhail Aloyan, Yezidi, boxing
Aleksey Denisenko, Roma, taekwondo

Bronze

Timur Safin, Tatar, fencing
Aliya Mustafina, Tatar, gymnastics
Kirill Grigoryan, Armenian, shooting

            The portal noted that the non-Russians were welcomed to their homelands with songs and national dress, something that at least some Russian nationalists will see as anything but what the portal describes as “the force of the spirit of Russians and the undefeatable nature of the multi-national people of Russia.”