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Bulletin 5:26 (2011)

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 5, No. 26(147), 28 September 2011 Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 28, 2011
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      THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 5, No. 26(147), 28 September 2011
      Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 1 - 15 September 2011
      II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
      III ANNOTATIONS OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS

      [NOTE: When viewing an RNB issue in the Messages archive of the homepage and the end of the text is truncated, scroll to the end of the message and click "Expand Messages." Only then, the whole text of the - otherwise truncated - issue will appear.]
      ===========================


      I NEWS: 1 - 15 September 2011

      Racism and Xenophobia in Russia in August 2011
      SOVA Center, September 5, 2011

      In August of 2011, a Kenyan national was wounded in a neo-Nazi attack in St. Petersburg. Additionally, racist incidents were noted (as usual) at the August 2 Airborne Day celebration. At least ten people in seven regions of the country were affected.
      Since the beginning of the year, racist violence has killed 15 people and injured 80, while seven have received death threats. We have recorded incidents in 22 regions of the country, though these statistics exclude victims of mass brawls and victims of incidents in the North Caucasus region.
      There were at least four acts of neo-Nazi vandalism this month. Two were anti-Semitic actions in Kaliningrad, where vandals damaged a plaque commemorating the victims of Kristallnacht and a monument to Holocaust victims. As such, there have been at least 50 acts of racist vandalism in 22 regions of Russia so far this year.
      Russian courts issued two convictions for racist violence accounting for the hate motive, in the Ryazan and Tula regions. These cases together convicted eight individuals, with seven receiving various prison terms and one, a suspended sentence. The most notable among the judgments was the guilty verdict against the Ryazan "Team of White Inquisitors" gang for racist attacks and killings.
      In all, Russian courts have issued 39 convictions against 156 people for racist violence accounting for the hate motive since the beginning of the year. Eight were sentenced to life imprisonment, 84 to varying prison terms, 50 to suspended sentences, nine were exempt from punishment and two were acquitted later. On August 30 Andrei "the fighter" Malyugin, a member of the Borovikov-Voevodin gang, was arrested in St. Petersburg on suspicion of committing two murders after he was released after acquittal in a prior trial this past June.
      Acts of xenophobic propaganda resulted in at least five sentences against five people, in Sakhalin, Sverdlovsk, Udmurtia and Chuvashia and Krasnoyarsk. As such, 50 judgments have been issued against 50 people in 31 regions of the country since the beginning of 2011.
      Oleg Troshkin, a leader of the Northern Brotherhood, was sentenced this month to five years in prison for the formation of an extremist organization. In total, Russian courts have issued two such sentences since the beginning of this year. This includes the winter conviction of a leader of the DPNI Protvino branch, which included an article on the formation of an extremist organization in its verdict.
      August saw one sentence for xenophobic vandalism against three young people in Khabarovsk. They were convicted of painting neo-Nazi graffiti on a building in the center of the city. This brings this year's total number of individuals convicted in xenophobic vandalism cases to six, in four cases.
      The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated three times (on August 11, 19 and 25), incorporating paragraphs 919-966. Joining the list are Nazi skinhead pictures, xenophobic texts and videos including those of the group Format 18 and the website Blood of the Reich. Texts include those published by the Russian branch of Blood & Honour, the group Strategy 2020, and the Tatar nationalist Vatan group. The popular websites www.liveinternet.ru and www.tatarlar.ru were added (as noted in this month's Misuse of Anti-extremism Legislation update). The list is now comprised of 966 items.
      The Federal List of Extremist Organizations was also augmented this month by the addition of two groups: the interregional "Spiritual-Tribal Power of Rus" - deemed extremist by an April ruling of the Moscow Regional Court - and by the Tatarstan chapter of the nationwide "Russian National Unity" movement, which the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tatarstan deemed extremist this May. Thus, the list now contains 25 organizations, though this number excludes organizations the state considers terrorist.
      In addition, the Supreme Court upheld a decision recognizing the DPNI (Movement Against Illegal Immigration) as extremist, banning its activities. While the ban has been put into force, it is not yet included on the list.
      -
      http://www.sova-center.ru/en/xenophobia/news-releases/2011/09/d22458/
      -------

      Already 46% Russians Feel Xenophobic - Poll
      Interfax, September 6, 2011

      MOSCOW. Sept 6 (Interfax) - Currently, half of Russians (50%) neither feel hostility on the part of people of other ethnicities, nor harbor any such thoughts against anyone else. However, the number of such citizens has dropped ten percentage points since 2009, the Levada Center told Interfax on Tuesday.
      The share of Russians feeling hostile to some extent towards people of other ethnicities has risen from 41% to 46% over the past three years, while the proportion of those who feel such sentiments towards themselves from other people has risen from 38% to 45%, according to the findings of a nationwide poll conducted in August.
      Currently, 52% respondents believe that the number of Russians who share nationalist views has grown over the past few years, and the number of advocates of such an opinion has risen five percentage points since 2006, the Levada Center said.
      On the contrary, 14% respondents believe that Russian nationalism is declining, while 21% are certain that the trend remained at the previous level (in 2006, 10% and 25%, respectively).
      As regards the causes of nationalism, 44% respondents pointed primarily to the provocative behavior of representatives of ethnic minorities, 21% cited low living standards, and 15% recalled the terrorist attacks of the past years.
      One-tenth of respondents (10%) accuse the authorities of a failure to handle flare-ups of nationalism or, on the contrary, of being keen "on fomenting nationalism" (9%), while others put everything down to "the national prejudices of ethnic Russian population" (5%).
      -----

      Medvedev warns of rising ethnic tensions in Russia
      Reuters, September 8, 2011

      YAROSLAVL, Russia, Sept 8 (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev, setting out his credentials for a second term, said on Thursday that ethnic tension was rising in Russia but cracking down too hard would undermine stability.
      In a speech to Russian and foreign experts, he kept Russians guessing whether he or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will run in a presidential election in March.
      But Medvedev said he wanted to live in a "modern, democratic state" and warned against silencing criticism -- remarks clearly designed to appeal to liberal political and business leaders in Russia, and to set himself apart from Putin.
      "We must preserve the integrity of the country, otherwise we shall not have a country at all," Medvedev told the Kremlin-backed Global Policy Forum in the Russian city of Yaroslavl, about 250 km (150 miles) north of Moscow.
      Medvedev said "separatism and terrorism" had not been defeated, a reference to the insurgency the Kremlin faces along its southern flank in the North Caucasus.
      But calls to tighten the screws or limit human rights to deal with poverty or extremism would achieve nothing, he said.
      Many Russians say they expect Putin, 58, to return as president in March. Medvedev, 45, has hinted he would like to stay on, but they are unlikely to run against each other and Putin is expected to have the final say.
      Medvedev began his 30-minute speech by calling for a minute's silence for the 43 people, including one of Russia's top ice hockey teams, who were killed in a plane crash on Wednesday at the city's airport.
      He did not mention Putin in the speech, but said Russia needed to boost the role of non-governmental organisations and develop an atmosphere of "free creativity", sharply different rhetoric to that of his mentor.
      By raising concerns about ethnic tensions and the gulf between rich and poor, he touched on issues that are likely to figure in a parliamentary election on Dec. 4.
      Putin steered Medvedev, a former corporate lawyer he has known for more than two decades, into the presidency in 2008 because a constitutional limit prevented the former KGB spy from running for a third term.
      Putin's ruling United Russia party is expected to win the parliamentary poll. No matter who becomes president, officials and diplomats say he will remain Russia's most powerful man.
      Despite a sharp fall in poverty since the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, when about a third of Russians lived in poverty, Medvedev said the proportion had risen to 15 percent this year from 12.8 percent in 2010.
      "The top 10 percent of the population receive 15 times as much as the poorest 10 percent," Medvedev said.
      He repeated calls for reform but, seeking to temper criticism by more conservative forces, he signalled he would not endorse change that was too rapid.
      "We need to develop but do this in an harmonious and gradual way," he said.
      -----

      We must preserve Russia's integrity - Medvedev
      www.russiatoday.com, September 8, 2011

      President Dmitry Medvedev has stressed that it is crucial to maintain Russia's integrity while giving every culture in the country a chance to develop and every Russian citizen the right to choose a place to live.
      "We have always wanted to live in a modern democratic state that can be called a free society of free people, in a world free of violence and poverty. And we are obliged to preserve the integrity of our country. Otherwise we will not have any country at all," the Russian president said. "It either exists in its present form or we will not have any Russia."
      "We must maintain the integrity of our country despite the terrorists' and extremists' resistance," he added.
      On Thursday, Medvedev was speaking at the third annual forum in the Russian city of Yaroslavl. This year politicians, political scientists and experts from all around the globe got together to discuss "The Modern State in the Age of Social Diversity".
      While the topic might seem a bit academic, the president noted, it has a very practical meaning, especially in such a vast country as Russia, which is home to about 180 nationalities and where the gap between the rich and the poor is enormous.
      "We have an excessive social stratification by living standards," Medvedev said. Ten per cent of the richest Russians have an income which is 15 times larger than that of the poorest. Yet another problem that arises from poverty is that it becomes a catalyst to xenophobia. Inter-ethnic conflicts and intolerance spread rapidly among socially disadvantaged groups.
      Medvedev said that of all aspects of social diversity Russia is currently facing ethnic relations and property stratification were the most controversial. "Real policy of the state and the effectiveness of this policy must be judged by these most complex processes," Medvedev said.
      However, the president underlined, no obstacles would make the country turn off the path of building a free and democratic state.
      Medvedev also outlined key directions the state should work on in order to become complex and flexible, as a modern society should be. The state ought to be able to understand its citizens, no matter what nationality, profession or culture they belong to.
      First of all, the country's leadership should increase its financial and informational support to various non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Secondly, it should assist citizens' access to new independent sources of information, in particular, by the development of digital television and broad-band internet.
      The government will also keep improving the system of education and science by encouraging international co-operation in the field of innovative technology and maintaining "the spirit of free creativity" in Russian universities.
      Yet another priority task set by the president is the support and development of all the cultures and traditions that exist in the multinational state.
      Article 13 of the Russian Constitution declares the principle of ideological and political diversity. Over the past years Russia has made its elections law more sensible to this concept, Medvedev told the international forum.
      The president reminded the assembly that political parties had received equal rights for presence on the state television channels and that the threshold for the parties' presence in the lower house had been reduced.
      "This is a steady, yet gradual, modernization of our political system. In my view, this is exactly what we need, though many do not agree with me. Some say that we must do everything very fast and this is the only case in which we will succeed and there is a different position, according to which it is for the better not to touch anything at all and everything is not bad as a whole anyway," the president noted.
      But Medvedev called this second position "myopic" and said that the society must develop, but harmonically and gradually.
      The president said that Russia had a complex society with numerous groups and centers of influence and thus, he said, decentralization in the country must continue and the state must pass some of its functions to private organizations.
      --------

      Medvedev Calls For Creation of Tolerant Society in Russia
      Interfax, September 9, 2011

      YAROSLAVL. Sept 9 (Interfax) - The issue of multiculturalism is extremely important for Russia, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said.
      "We should really create a society of internal harmony, where people are tolerant of each other, but at the same time respect the traditions that make up the core of this or that ethnos,' Medvedev said in an interview with Euronews.
      "No matter what region we are talking about - central Russia, the Caucasus, or the Far East - the people who live there are citizens of Russia who have the same rights and duties and who have to behave appropriately in society. For this reason, this issue is important to us," Medvedev said.
      "Under the Soviets, we even had a term 'unified entity - Soviet people.' That term was theoretical in many respects. However, that does not mean that we should give up this idea," Medvedev said.
      The issue of multiculturalism was among the main issues addressed at the World Political Forum held n Yaroslavl under the patronage of the Russian president.
      ----

      Growing Nationalism Fatally Dangerous to Russia - Duma Deputy
      Interfax, September 9, 2011

      MOSCOW. Sept 9 (Interfax) - One of the most important results of the Global Policy Forum 2011 that has just been held in Yaroslavl is that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for the first time pointed to the danger of moral deformations in society, says State Duma international committee head Konstantin Kosachyov.
      The Yak-42 plane crash in Yaroslavl, which claimed the lives of 43 passengers, "overshadowed another Yaroslavl, where people spoke - perhaps for the first time this sincerely - not so much on political as on moral issues," Kosachyov said.
      "Relations between ethnic groups, religions, traditions, and cultures within the framework of one society is a contemporary phenomenon, because rulers did not bother too much about such issues in the previous thousand-year history - 'who is not with us is against us'," Kosachyov wrote in his blog on Friday.
      Two confronting tides of nationalism growing lately in Russia "is the most fatal danger, which is greater of both communist revanche and provocative populism of the fringe opposition," Kosachyov said. "I therefore deem the president's coherent and substantive words on this account in Yaroslavl to be timely and right," he said.
      The attitudes toward growth of nationalism in the developed Western countries are different than in Russia, Kosachyov said. "With the advent of the human rights era, everything has turned different now, and political correctness dictates the 'everyone who is with us is with us' principle, but, although these slogans have been declared, their consequences are unpredictable. Politicians, even bright and charismatic ones, cannot handle this on their own if civil society does not help them, and this is alarming," he said.
      "In Western Europe, nationalists reacting to the crisis of multiculturalism may enter politics, but they are unlikely to win, because society rejects them. The radicals speculating on problems of democratic growth can count on 10% to 20% at most," he said.
      The situation in Russia is absolutely different in this respect, he said.
      "There is the impression that most of the (Russian) population is itching to fight, a bunch against a bunch, and then break into ethnic homes, desirably once and for all. Or, which is often even worse, people do not even realize, or don't want to realize, to what consequences their provocative words or deeds can lead. And it is the ordinary people who have to pay for politicians' gambling," he said.
      -----

      Church official offers to give preferences to frequent-in-Russian migrants who stick to Russian culture
      Interfax-Religion, September 9, 2011

      St. Petersburg, September 9, Interfax - Head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin urges Russian authorities to make a "quality breakthrough" in migrants adaptation policy.
      "It's impossible to make these people learn Russian, perceive the culture of their new places of living. But it is possible and necessary to give preferences to those who are successful in learning Russian, participate in public life, obedient to the law, stick to Russian culture and the country's religious traditions when giving citizenship or hiring to legal job," he said in St. Petersburg.
      The priest also urged to stimulate business so that "it works on integrating migrants especially through special centers" functioning on the basis of state and private partnership.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=8719
      -----

      Moscow Grand Mosque demolished
      Interfax-Religion, September 12, 2011

      Moscow, September 12, Interfax - The historical building of the Moscow Grand Mosque was demolished in Moscow last week.
      "Workers used special equipment to demolish the building of the historical mosque to the foundation," Albir Krganov, first deputy chairman of the Central Spiritual Directorate of Muslims and mufti of Moscow and the Central Region of Russia told Interfax-Religion.
      Krganov said he was surprised that the day selected for the demolition of the mosque was September 11.
      "A tragedy occurred in Moscow on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the U.S." he said.
      Earlier, some leaders of Islamic organizations in Russia criticized the plans of demolishing the Moscow Grand Mosque.
      "The issue of demolishing the historical place of worship in Moscow has been stirring the minds of Muslims for several years. It is regrettable that the demolition is initiated not by some descendant of theomachists, who blasted churches of traditional religions or prayer towers of Tatar mosques in the expanses of Russia in the 1930s, but a person who bears the highest spiritual title of mufti," a joint statement of Islamic leaders obtained by Interfax-Religion on Monday says.
      Ahead of the Eid ul-Fitr, the news came that the demolition of the historical building of the mosque in Moscow would begin after the end of the fast, and "this was confirmed during the festive sermon" in which head of the Council of Muftis of Russia Ravil Gainutdin "announced the pending demolition of the mosque," the statement says.
      For several years, mufti Gainutdin has kept the Tatar community in Moscow "nervous by loudly declaring that the historical building of the Moscow Grand Mosque is not properly oriented toward Mecca and therefore poses no historic value," the statement says.
      "Furthermore, he points out the similarity of the architecture of the mosque with the appearance of the Moscow grand synagogue. But that is no reason to demolish the mosque," the statement says.
      Muslim leaders urged the federal authorities, the leadership of Moscow and Tatarstan, the World Congress of Tatars, local Tatar communities, public and religious figures in Russia" to raise their voices in defense of Tatar and consequently Russian Islamic heritage, noting that the authorities "have the right to demand that Ravil Gainutdin give up his insane idea of demolishing the historical building of the Moscow Grand Mosque," the statement says.
      The statement was signed by head of the Central Muslim Board of Russia Talgat Tajuddin, mufti of Moscow and Central Russia Albir Krganov, the leaders of the All-Russian Muslim Board, head of the Muslim Board of St. Petersburg and Northwest Russia Jafar Ponchayev, the muftis of Rostov, Chelyabinsk, Kurgan and Astrakhan Regions and the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Districts, the leaders of the Russian Islamic Heritage movement and others.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=8725
      ------

      Lib-Dem leader in 'ethnic' campaign call
      Russia Today, 13 September, 2011

      The Head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has called on ethnic Russians to vote for him. He also accused the US of exploiting Russia and the whole world, saying US special services were behind the 9/11 attacks.
      Speaking in his trademark demagogic manner, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky, told a party congress on Tuesday that their primary goal was to protect the rights of ethnic Russians. Zhirinovsky accused various forces - from the current Russian authorities, to liberal reformers of the 1990s, to agents of foreign governments - of conducting an elaborate policy aimed at the exploitation and even destruction of the Russian people.
      The LDPR leader said that the current state of the Russian society is not entirely democratic and not entirely free, but rather, as he put it, a "hermaphrodite state".
      "We have neither private property, nor public, neither freedom, nor serfdom," he said, adding that hermaphrodites cannot produce offspring and thus have no future.
      In the past, Zhirinovsky has suggested that Russian men be able to legally marry more than one wife in order to address Russia's deteriorating demographic situation.
      He also said that the current attempts to build an interstate block on the basis of CIS and the CSTO were also doomed to fail for the same reason - lack of resolution and clarity.
      Zhirinovsky said that former Soviet republics must join the Russian Federation as federal districts.
      The Russian politician, however, did not confine himself to domestic topics. Indeed, the firebrand politician took aim at the United States, saying that the 9/11 attacks were a "provocation" staged by the US special services. He then listed many of the same arguments used by conspiracy theorists to prove his point:
      "What sort of a terrorist would strike at 8-30 AM, when there is no one in the offices besides janitors," he asked. "Why didn't they order the air force to shoot down the hijacked planes?"
      He then questioned the ways the towers dropped to the ground in free-fall speed, which some experts say prove that something else besides fire was responsible for being down the skyscrapers. "Two towers crashed onto their foundation in almost no time. This could only happen if it was a prepared demolition, if there were explosives planted on all floors," he said.
      Finally, Zhirinovsky asked why the hole in the Pentagon "was smaller than the aircraft that allegedly crashed into it."
      The LDPR leader added that if he does not get answers to these questions, he will consider the 9/11 terrorist attacks "a provocation".
      Zhirinovsky also said that he will run for president in the forthcoming elections and will officially propose his candidacy at the 24th LDPR Congress on December 13.
      Zhirinovsky also announced that Valery Budanov will run for the Lower House on the LDPR party ticket. Budanov, a little-known lawyer, is the son of the ex-army colonel and nationalist icon Yuri Budanov who was shot dead in Moscow in June this year after serving a prison sentence for kidnapping and strangling a Chechen teenager while on a combat mission in Chechnya in 2000.
      "Yes, Valery Yurievich Budanov is on our list. I bid his father the last farewell. I think we must support the family for it is a great grief to lose one's father," Zhirinovsky said. "We must pay attention to the military, as much as we can. This is not only about housing, this is also attention to families," the politician said.
      In comments to RT, Valery Budanov said that he saw the fate of the military as the most urgent challenge Russia is facing. Professional military servicemen are not protected by the state in ordinary life and have to solve numerous social problems, and those who return from combat in various "hot spots" suffer even more because they struggle to adjust to civilian life.
      In an interview with RT following the LDPR congress, Zhirinovsky said that in 2001 he was the first to raise questions about the terror attacks of 9/11 during a visit to Ottawa, Canada.
      The Russian politician repeated his questions, which he says are being ignored by the international community:
      "Why were the WTC towers insured just over one month before the attacks? Why was the strike delivered so early, when there were so few people in the offices? Why were TV cameras already pointed at the towers when the aircraft hit them? Why did the towers fall straight down into their foundations, like dominos or pyramids? Why was the Pentagon hit on the right wing that housed archives and not on the left wing where the Defense Secretary's office is located? Why was the hole in the Pentagon smaller than the plane that made it, and why was the plane never found? Why were no fighter aircraft launched when the hijacked aircraft went off their prescribed routes?"
      "We mourn the victims of the attacks and the American people are not to blame for this, but the attacks were most likely ordered, organized and executed by certain agencies of the United States," Zhirinovsky said.
      The LDPR leader claims he was the first to ask these questions only two months after the terrorist attacks. He says the questions remain unanswered, and the whole world "remains silent to this day."
      Meanwhile, speaking on the recent death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Zhirinovsky said that US Special Forces continue to keep their own people, as well as the international community in the dark concerning their actions.
      "What happened to Bin Laden? Where is his body? They got rid of it and there is no body, but this is because they never had it - Bin laden died a long time ago and of natural causes. They were deceiving us for five or six years saying that he was alive and releasing his addresses," he said.
      "This is monstrous. Lies mounted on top of lies," the firebrand LDPR leader concluded.

      http://rt.com/politics/liberal-democrats-russian-elections-413/
      ---------------------

      Patriarch Kirill calls for deterring attempts to diminish Soviet people's role in WWII
      Interfax-Religion, September 15, 2011

      Lugansk, September 15, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has urged WWII veterans to remind the world that they saved it from the Nazis.
      "The heroic feat of our people is beyond comparison. We must declare it to the whole world. We saved our country, we also saved the whole world," he told the veterans after laying a wreath to the Pole of Glory and the Unknown Soldier's Tomb in Lugansk on Thursday.
      "Sometimes we encounter indifference, forgetfulness and even vandalism upon the memory of the heroes. The truth about the war is accompanied with lies, and heroism is presented as an action, which allegedly led to something irreparably bad for the people. Such attempts must be deterred," he said.
      "The veterans are told sometimes that they are liars," he added.
      "Fortunately, no one places a hand on the veterans, although clashes with the war heroes happen in some places. But you must not keep silent. You must speak the truth about the war and the great feat of our people," he said.
      "You must never stop fighting; start an offensive just like you did in the Great Patriotic War, speak the truth and teach the younger generation, because your word is the word of truth in the eyes of God and the people," the Patriarch said.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=8736
      ------

      Patriarch Kirill calls on Ukraine to conform around Holy Rus' ideals
      Interfax-Religion, September 15, 2011

      Lugansk, September 15, Interfax - Ukraine's prosperity hinges on its return to the Kievan Rus' spiritual roots, says Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
      "For Ukraine to be strong, it should consolidate around the principal values on which the life of the entire Holy Rus was based, including today's Ukraine - from St. Vladimir's Christianization to the present day," Patriarch Kirill said, following a liturgy service he conducted on Theater Square in Lugansk, Ukraine.
      It is important for the "Church to overcome the separation, so that the Orthodox Ukrainian people gather again around one chalice," he said.
      The Patriarch said he is praying for Ukraine's prosperity, for its leadership, and for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Primate, Metropolitan Vladimir, who could not visit Lugansk because of illness.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=8735
      =========================


      II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS

      NATIONALISTS ARE TRYING TO PERSUADE EVERYONE THAT THEY ARE NO VILLAINS: An interview with Center Sova Director Alexander Verkhovsky
      By: Dmitry Kamyshev
      Kommersant-VLAST, August 29, 2011,

      Question: How many radical nationalists are there in Russia these days? Meaning nationalists prepared to stage street protests?
      Alexander Verkhovsky: A rough estimate is all I can give you. Let's see now. There are participants in all sorts of marches - people with certain convictions. I dare say that 80% or even 90% of them are members of relatively stable groups, structures, organizations, whatever... I.e. people with more or less firm convictions as opposed to those who act entirely on a whim. There are some other people as well, there must be some others, who do not participate in marches. They are fairly few though. In any event, approximately 15,000 more or less organized radical
      nationalists in Russia is probably a safe bet.
      I repeat, this is but a rough estimate. Had nationalists been permitted to form an official political party, I dare say that it would have been much larger than that from the standpoint of membership.
      Question: How much larger? Shall we count in the Russians who back however cautiously the slogan "Russia for the Russians"? According to Levada-Center sociologists, they numbered 58% in February...
      Alexander Verkhovsky: No, strike these Russians. We ran an experiment with the Motherland party once, a party that combined socio-populist slogans with moderate nationalist ones. It was just the right mix for laymen. The Motherland party polled about 10% in federal and regional elections. It was expected to poll 15% in
      Moscow where xenophobia was more burning than elsewhere but Motherland was removed from the race for the Moscow municipal legislature.
      Anyway, most Russians are thoroughly apolitical. Conversion of their views into sincere support for some political party or other is way down on their list of priorities. Consider the CPRF. Very many support some of its slogans but not even these people vote for Communists. Same thing with nationalists. And yet, given a chance to form a legitimate political parties, they would have scaled the 7% barrier and made it to the Duma.
      Question: The 2010 annual report your center drew emphasized that nationalists were trying to de-marginalize themselves and become legitimate... apparently in the hope to become a legitimate political force one day. Does the process continue nowadays?
      Alexander Verkhovsky: That's a strange process indeed. The Movement Against Illegal Immigration [outlawed as extremist in April 2011 - Kommersant] was initially established with an eye to becoming legitimate... in the hope for the authorities' tolerance with regard to it. This model of coexistence with the powers-that-be turned out to be inadequate and unviable. There are no reasons at this point to expect the attitude towards nationalists like the
      Movement Against Illegal Immigration to change... or to expect that they will be permitted participation in elections.
      Nationalists try to go legitimate with an eye to the future.
      It is not the powers-that-be, it is society in general that they are trying to persuade. Hence the emphasis they make on democracy, human rights, harassment for convictions, and so on. They think that it will serve as a disguise and present them as participants in the political process in their own name, say, like Solidarity. That they are no villains, in other words. As a matter of fact, this ruse is working to a certain degree.
      Question: Do the radicals of the kind that participated in the Manezh disturbances need legitimacy and participation in politics at all?
      Alexander Verkhovsky: Of course, there are guys out there who could not care less about politics and who are guided by the gut principle "see an immigrant, kick his ass." There are also those, however, somewhat more adult and mature, who have evolved past this tunnel vision, who are trying to work out a strategy.
      Question: Even the Right Cause party courted nationalists at one point. Was it a stable trend or what? Are liberals flirting with nationalists because they believe that this is what society expects?
      Alexander Verkhovsky: There is a subject that seems to be the talk of the day even though it is formally off the agenda. All political forces will have to formulate their stand on the subject sooner or later. It's just that it is not required of them at this time. More than that, formulation of this stand will be thoroughly undesirable at this time. Political forces are supposed to be quite vague on this subject.
      Question: But Putin meets with football fans and openly promotes stiffer procedures of registration. Is that vague?
      Alexander Verkhovsky: It happened in December, right after the Manezh ruckus. The moment things calmed down, all this maneuvering was put an end to. After all, it was clear right away that all these efforts were only meant to placate radicals. I would not even say that the powers-that-be systematically court nationalists. On the contrary, pressure on the ultra-right continues. In 2010 alone 320 people were tried and imprisoned for violence fuelled by hatred. Compared to the situation several short years ago, that was a colossal figure. It will therefore be wrong to assume that the authorities treat these people with kid's gloves.
      Question: But the old axiom "whenever you cannot defeat some force, become its leader" still applies. Sova experts say that the powers-that-be are through with cultivation of moderate nationalism in youths. Why would not the powers-that-be focus their attention on adult nationalists nowadays?
      Alexander Verkhovsky: I do not think that the powers-that-be will try to go about it in so open a manner again. Not now, at least. Having some other organization using slogans of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration will be wrong, and the authorities know it. They know that this policy cannot be effective. For this strategy to succeed, there must be more to the difference between official and unofficial nationalists than names alone.
      -----

      Russia raps OSCE election "double standards"
      By Denis Dyomkin and Roman Kozhevnikov
      Reuters, 3 September 2011

      DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Saturday accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe of using double standards and attempting to influence the internal affairs of some ex-Soviet nations.
      The OSCE, the world's largest security body with 56 member states from Europe, Central Asia and North America, has issued scathing reports about general elections in Russia and some of its ex-Soviet cousins, often rating them neither free nor fair.
      Russia holds a parliamentary election in December, which the ruling United Russia party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win easily.
      A presidential election follows next March at which either Putin, 58, who was president from 2000 to 2008, or Medvedev, 45, is likely to be the leading candidate.
      Medvedev, speaking at a summit of the Moscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States, uniting 11 ex-Soviet states, rapped the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights for sending "huge delegations" to monitor elections.
      "Those international observers who come representing the OSCE at times openly demonstrate a politicised approach to the assessment of preparations for elections and of the way they are conducted," he told the summit, held in the Tajik capital.
      "Let's call a spade a spade -- this approach is often based on double standards."
      Medvedev made clear that he saw the negative assessment of elections in Russia and other ex-Soviet states by the OSCE as a means to bolster opposition forces in these states -- a view also aired by Putin, widely seen as Russia's most powerful leader.
      "Naturally, all of us are striving for free and democratic elections, but this does not mean open access for any external force that could try to shape the internal situation in our states from abroad," he said.
      GREATER ROLE FOR CIS OBSERVERS
      In contrast to their Western colleagues, observer missions from CIS nations have routinely issued highly complementary reports about presidential and parliamentary elections held even in the most authoritarian states, including Russia's ally Belarus and the countries of Central Asia.
      Medvedev said the sending of observers from CIS parliaments was "a success": "I think it important to ensure an even greater role of this mission in monitoring elections in our countries.
      "This would ... greatly assist the consolidation of democracy and a comprehensive development of the political systems of our states."
      Nikolai Bordyuzha, who heads the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), echoed Medvedev's concerns, saying the string of "Arab Spring" revolutions showed that foreign forces "can rock the situation in any country."
      "These (events) have opened our eyes to many things," he told reporters on the sidelines of the summit. "Because every state has an infrastructure that can be used to rock the situation, such as information resources, controlled or funded by other states, non-government organizations and foundations.
      "There are professional revolutionaries trained elsewhere -- specifically to make revolutions happen in their own countries."
      Bordyuzha declined to answer questions on whether the CSTO, which includes rapid reaction units from Russia and other six CIS states, could use force to quell protests in any of its members.
      The CSTO did not send troops to stop ethnic riots in its member Kyrgyzstan in June last year, when more than 400 people were killed.

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/03/us-russia-osce-idUSTRE7820V920110903
      -------------------------


      The State and Prospects of the Russia-EU-Ukraine Triangle: Answers to Questions by the Valdai Discussion Club
      By Andreas Umland
      Foreign Policy Journal, September 6, 2011

      (This interview was originally published by RIA Novosti in Russia. It has been republished here with permission from the interviewee.)
      --Valdai Club: What is the current state of relations between Russia, Ukraine and EU?
      As of late August 2011, these relations are in a holding pattern, as there are several options for Ukraine on the table, and no final decision has been made which one to choose - association with the EU, involvement in the Russia-led Customs Union, or continued domestic stagnation and international isolation. Neither the European nor the Russian leaders, nor even the Ukrainian leadership, seem to be clear about the path Ukraine will take in its foreign relations, in the near future. To be sure, the new Ukrainian President has announced repeatedly that he will continue the Orange governments' policy of rapid rapprochement with Brussels. However, a number of recent domestic developments question the feasibility of such a policy, if not the sincerity of Kyiv's pro-European announcements. In spite of its dozens of public overtures to Brussels in recent months, the Ukrainian leadership looks fundamentally confused about the preconditions it has to meet and the implications that it will face should the signing and ratification of the Association Agreement with the EU come into reach.
      That said, signs of confusion can also be seen in the recent behaviour of Russia and the EU. Moscow seems to be torn between its obvious aim of seducing Ukraine into a new special relationship - if not a new union - with Russia, on the one hand, and its short-term economic interests, on the other. The gas agreement signed by then Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in January 2009, under pressure from both the Kremlin and Brussels, is in Russia's current economic interests. However, Ukraine is now paying more for gas - even after the adjustments following the Kharkov Agreement on renewing Russia's lease of the Sevastopol base - than Germany, for instance. With such trade policies, the Kremlin is increasingly alienating both the relatively pro-Russian politicians currently in power in Kiev, and the Russian-speaking population of eastern and southern Ukraine.
      Brussels, in turn, has recently made the EU's relationship to Ukraine one of its top priorities, thereby acknowledging the geopolitical dimension of Ukraine's further development. However, the EU's executive bodies continue to refuse to provide Ukraine with a clear, if non-binding and long-term prospect of membership, in the Union. This policy is pursued in disregard of the will of the European Parliament, as expressed in the EP Resolution on Ukraine of February 25, 2010. It also contradicts social scientific research that has found that a sufficiently credible and relevant "carrot" - and not only "stick" - is a crucial precondition for the deep Europeanization of a transition country.
      All three actors - Russia, the EU and Ukraine - will ultimately have to settle on long-term foreign policy aims and strategies. Presumably, this will have to happen soon in so far as the negotiation of the Association and Free Trade Agreements between the EU and Ukraine is coming to a close. The signing and ratification of these agreements in the parliaments of the EU and member states will presumably raise the political salience of Brussels' future relations with both Kyiv and Moscow to new heights.
      --Valdai Club: How will the Nord Stream project affect the Russia-Ukraine-EU triangle?
      The main, obvious effect of the Nord Stream pipeline will be a disruption in the foundations of Russia's relationship with Belarus and Ukraine. Currently, there exists a certain balance of economic power between Moscow, on the one hand, and Minsk and Kiev, on the other. While Belarus and Ukraine are dependent on Russian gas supplies, Russia is reliant on there being continuously and fully functioning pipelines passing through the territories of its two "brother nations."
      The new transportation options following the opening of Nord Stream will not cause an immediate conflict. However, it may prove seductive for the Kremlin to use its new economic leverage over the two former Soviet republics toward political ends. One can only hope that the Russian leaders will be aware of the ambivalent meaning of such behaviour. The immediate gains that Russia could reap from using Nord Stream for political purposes may seem significant, but the long-term effects of using its new economic leverage will be less clear, as in the case of Russia's "successful" negotiation of a new gas agreement in January 2009. Ukraine's Russian-speaking population is becoming disillusioned with Russia, as a result of the high gas price Russia is demanding from Ukraine. Should Russia use Nord Stream to pressure Ukraine even more, the disappointment felt by former friends of Russia in Ukraine will only grow.
      --Valdai Club: How do you see this triangular relationship developing in the future, for example, in the next 5-6 years?
      The relationship will become rather complicated given the various EU initiatives under way in Eastern Europe, on the hand, and Russia's continued illusions about sustaining its sphere of influence in Northern Eurasia, on the other. Initially, this concerned the Eastern Partnership, which has put under question Moscow's claims to hegemony over the post-Soviet East European and South Caucasian space. In as far as Russia is making a point of keeping its distance from this initiative, every new step of rapprochement between the Eastern Partnership countries could put Brussels at loggerheads with Moscow.
      Moreover, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, if successfully signed and ratified, is going to be the largest foreign treaty ever concluded by both, Ukraine and the EU. Should Russia choose not to pursue a parallel policy of rapprochement with the EU, the DCFTA will only create more distance between Ukraine and the Russia-dominated Eurasian trading area. The Political Association and Free Trade agreements as well the envisaged new visa-free travel regime will, sooner or later, also have spill-over effects in both Ukraine and the EU. The ratification of these three treaties and their gradual implementation could, in just 10 years time, alter Ukraine's place in Europe. Should all the various projects currently under way between Ukraine and the EU be successful, Ukraine's membership not only in the EU, but also in NATO, may well appear on the agenda again.
      In light of this forecast, my advice for the Kremlin is to intensify Russia's relationship with the EU and to re-define its stance toward NATO. None of the aforementioned developments need to become problematic if Russia also becomes a WTO member, institutes a visa-free travel regime with Europe, re-engages in close cooperation with NATO, and puts her relations with the EU on a new contractual footing. On the contrary, within such a scheme, Russia could interpret Ukraine's gradual integration into Western structures as steps towards closer Russian-Western cooperation. Ukraine does not have to become the political, diplomatic and cultural battleground for some new "Great Game" between Russia and the West in Eastern Europe. Rather, Ukraine's gradual inclusion in various Western institutions should be seen by all three sides - Kyiv, Brussels and Moscow - as part and parcel of the creation of a new pan-European security structure, a common trading and travel zone, and, eventually, a transcontinental community of shared values in the northern hemisphere.

      http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2011/09/06/the-state-and-prospects-of-the-russia-eu-ukraine-triangle/
      -----------------------

      Russia celebrates Napoleon defeat with gunshot and fire
      By: John Bowker
      Reuters, September 6, 2011

      BORODINO, Russia (Reuters) - Three ear-splitting gunshots pierce the country air, a cavalry unit gallops across the forest clearing, and several thousand Russian spectators gasp and shriek with delight.
      The Battle of Borodino -- 2011 redux -- has begun.
      A burning thatched house provides the backdrop to the next phase of maneuvers, as French troops under direction from the Emperor Napoleon take control of a marshy stream and try to push back their Russian enemies.
      This is the annual re-enactment of the 1812 Battle of Borodino between Russia and the invading French army, staged by hundreds of volunteer actors and military enthusiasts in a field around 120 km (745 miles) west of Moscow.
      As Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture blares from loudspeakers, the participants shoot at each other with cannon fire and clash with cutlasses on horseback.
      "This was our great victory. Napoleon had conquered the whole world except Britain," said spectator Oleg Ovchinnikov, 38, attending the reenactment of the battle for the eighth time.
      Historians estimate that some 250,000 soldiers were involved in the actual conflict, with 70,000 casualties between the two sides.
      Although the French are considered to have won the battle, it has come to be seen nearly two centuries later as a Russian victory in all but name -- a success that is celebrated with a battle re-enactment around the September 7 anniversary every year.
      The human cost of victory proved too great for the French. Napoleon was soon on the retreat, pursued by a strengthened and bloodthirsty Russian army all the way to the border.
      "Of course this is a very important day -- this was the first great war for Russia," said 14-year old Julia, who had travelled from Moscow with her friends to watch the drama.
      Napoleon's own description of the battle only serves to fuel Russian patriotism and enthusiasm for the event:
      "Of the fifty battles I have fought, the most terrible was that before Moscow. The French showed themselves to be worthy victors, and the Russians can rightly call themselves invincible," he wrote.
      OWN COSTUMES
      The hour-long enactment takes place in a picturesque forest clearing just outside the town of Borodino - a place also commemorated as a scene of fighting during the ultimately successful defense of Moscow against the German army in 1941.
      The battle -- ringfenced by Russian police -- is watched from a grassy bank by a substantial crowd eating kebabs and drinking beer as well as admiring the carefully choreographed spectacle.
      Some of them have arrived wearing their own 19th century costumes - long wide-rimmed multi-colored dresses, corsets and bonnets for the ladies and soldier outfits for the men.
      "We made our own costumes -- we always come dressed like this. It's a great event for Russia," said Alisa, 20, who said this was her sixth visit.
      Now attention is turning to 2012 -- the 200th anniversary of the battle -- for which a string of special events are being planned.
      Peter King, an Englishman attending the 2011 event, is planning a cycle ride tracking Napoleon's cross-country route to Borodino over 1,000 km from Kaunas, Lithuania, to coincide with next year's re-enactment.
      "The idea is to turn a path of destruction into a path of happiness, joy and friendship," he said.
      -----

      DANGEROUS GAME:The powers-that-be are out to make nationalism an element of official politics
      Vedomosti, September 7, 2011

      THE KREMLIN NEEDS ROGOZIN BACK IN DOMESTIC POLITICS TO PLAY THE NATIONALIST CARD
      Representative to NATO and former Presidential Envoy to Kaliningrad and lawmaker, Dmitry Rogozin returns to domestic politics. His Motherland - Congress of Russian Communities organization is expected to join the Russian Popular Front before very long. Political scientists close to the Kremlin admit that the Kremlin needs Rogozin at home to play the nationalist card in the most productive manner. The spectrum of moods varying from moderately nationalist to patently xenophobic is typical of a substantial number of potential voters. A series of clashes between the locals and people from the Caucasus in Moscow and Russian regions fuelled anti-immigrant disposition throughout the country. According to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 18% Russians and 27% Muscovites sympathized with the Manezh Square protesters in December 2010.
      Running for the Moscow municipal legislation in November 2005, Rogozin's Motherland made a short promo film where people from the Caucasus were equated with litter Moscow could do without. Time will show how successful the Kremlin becomes in the attempted transformation of the leader of the erstwhile Motherland into a respectable patriot these days. Once again, only time will show reaction of the population of the Caucasus to Rogozin's comeback. It does not really matter. What counts is that the powers-that-be are out all over again to make use of the innate dislike of strangers and foreigners. (Remember anti-immigrant raids and rallies pro-Kremlin youth organizations staged during the crisis, and their demands to deport all legitimate Gastarbeiters from Russia?) Promoters of this policy forget that the line between "safe" and aggressive bigotry is really fuzzy. Any attempt to cultivate another Presidential Task Force (this was how Rogozin used to call his party in the past) - i.e. tame and obedient bigots that will drive aggressive ones out - is dangerous. Instead of striving to develop immunity to nationalism whose weakening Vladimir Putin complained of in December 2010, the powers-that-be themselves aspire to undermine it.
      ------

      ANIMOSITY: Forty-six percent Russians feel animosity towards ethnic minorities
      By: Yulia Savina
      Novye Izvestia, September 8, 2011

      Sociologists detected and reported a growth of bigotry in Russia. According to the Levada-Center, 46% Russians reject other ethnic groups to some extent (they numbered 38% in 2005) and 46% admit that they feel animosity directed against them (also 38% in 2005).
      Sociologists say that 52% Russians are convinced that xenophobia is spreading and that many more Russians these days are antagonistic with regard to other ethnic groups than 5 or 6 years ago. The motives behind this dislike change as years pass. "Ethnic minorities' arrogance" was mentioned by 22% respondents in 2005 and by 44% this year. Fewer respondents in the meantime attribute ethnic animosity to "terrorist acts" (33% in 2005 and 15% in 2011). Twenty-one percent mentioned inadequate living conditions and 6% pinned the blame on "the weak powers-that-be incapable of taking care of nationalists." Five percent respondents attributed animosity to "the Russians' ethnic prejudices" and 4% said that the authorities themselves were interested in existence of bigotry.
      Sova Center Director Alexander Verkhovsky said, "Regardless of sociological reports, I would not say that intolerance has grown in any significant manner. I'd say that the situation remained more or less unchanged. It's just that people learned to be less secretive with sociologists. It's not a change in disposition, but rather a change in priorities... or perhaps even in the psychological makeup."
      According to Verkhovsky, the motives respondents chalk off their own bigotry to depend on what the attention of respondents is currently riveted to. "Six months ago or immediately after the Manezh disturbances that where were the talk of the day then, 37% respondents pinned the blame on ethnic minorities themselves and their "arrogance". These days, ethnic minorities' arrogance as the motive is cited by 44% respondents. What is that? Do sociologists mean to say that ethnic minorities became so much more arrogant over the last six months? It's impossible, of course."
      Levada-Center Assistant Director Aleksei Grazhdankin meanwhile commented that any discontent was regulated and manipulated by the media. Highlighting and emphasizing ethnic conflicts and clashes, media outlets inadvertently facilitated the spread of bigotry.
      ----

      Indecision 2012: Are we having fun yet?
      By: Anna Arutunyan
      Moscow News, September 8, 2011

      Imagine if Hugh Laurie, the actor who plays Dr. House, announced he'd be running for president. And Paris Hilton opted for the post of Prime Minister.
      Sounds like a sitcom, but amid the dragging uncertainty of whether President Dmitry Medvedev or his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, will run in 2012, that's pretty much what is happening on Russia's political stage. According to some analysts, it's all part of a plan to make Russian elections more fun.
      Forget traditional contenders like nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky - this week all eyes were on the tattooed priest-turned-actor Ivan Okhlobystin, who plays the Houselike doctor on Russia's remake, "Interns".
      "After a lot of thought, we've reached the decision that I'm going to run for president," Okhlobystin announced at a Sunday press conference. He did not elaborate as to who he meant by "we".
      "Vanechka, can I be your prime minister?" TV personality Ksenia Sobchak asked him. He gestured a yes, according to a video posted by Komsomolskaya Pravda. Preempting accusations of a political road show, the actor said his intentions were "absolutely serious."
      So serious, in fact, that the former priest is actually planning to run as a man of God. "I'm a religious fanatic," he said with a smile in an interview with RIA Novosti. "I have no political experience."
      Earlier he said he had several plans - and all of them "coincide with the Russian Orthodox Church. It includes restoring the Empire."
      While Russia's Church is constitutionally separated from the State, neither Okhlobystin nor the Central Election Committee sees anything wrong with an ordained priest registering as a presidential candidate.
      But the Church itself does. Spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin said Monday that a priest cannot run for public office - to which Okhlobystin responded that the Synod should decide. "The Church should consult with power, and then everything will turn out on its own. It's not we who decide, but God."
      And if the Synod officially bars him from running, he will comply. "The Church is my home," he told RIA Novosti. A representative of Okhlobystin could not be reached on her mobile phone as of print time.
      Imitation democracy?
      While part Okhlobystin's remarks appeared tied with a promotion campaign for his Doctrine 77 - a mysticism-infused roadmap to remake the Russian Empire, which he promised to outline in a September 10 Luzhniki performance that he dubbed "a dreary hour and a half talking session on national-patriotic themes" - they are also clearly playing into a celebrity sideshow to spice up an election season otherwise shrouded in mystery.
      Okhlobystin announced his bid virtually on the same weekend as Right Cause leader Mikhail Prokhorov promised to run if his pro-business party got enough votes in the December 4 parliamentary elections. Billionaire Prokhorov was shown Sunday in a televised shouting match with LDPR head Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who gave Prokhorov his watch just to prove how cheap it was. And soon after Prokhorov's announcement, the Soviet-era celebrity diva Alla Pugacheva opted to join his party.
      Problem is, the sideshow is a symptom of a total lack of interest in the real elections, critics say.
      "The elections have already been discredited, and this is just a way to imitate parliamentarianism, and it allows us to diagnose the state of society," writer Dmitry Bykov told The Moscow News. Bykov, together with a handful of oppositionists, founded the Nakh-Nakh: Vote Against All movement - a word play on name of one of the "Three Little Pigs" and a Russian expletive roughly meaning "to hell with it all." Because Russians no longer have the option of voting against all, the movement is calling on voters to cross out their ballots and write out, "To hell with crooks and thieves."
      But Okhlobystin, Bykov said, is not a protest candidate. "He's not standing for protest sentiment. He's standing for 'I don't care' sentiment."
      That, other analysts said, could actually play into government attempts to revive interest in an election process widely viewed as completely disengaged from voting citizens - where decision on who will run (and likely win) are decided behind closed doors in the Kremlin.
      "I'm personally acquainted with Ivan Okhlobystin and I think he's very talented, but in my opinion, this is a project of [first deputy chief of staff Vladislav] Surkov," independent analyst Stanislav Belkovsly told The Moscow News, referring to the Kremlin ideologist widely seen as orchestrating the political process.
      "It's part of a move to liven up the elections, because they've become so boring that they need all the movement they can get," he said. "Never have the elections descended into such a farce as they have this season."
      With his "national-patriotic themes," Okhlobystin is convenient for another purpose: streamlining the growing ultra-nationalist sentiment feared by the Kremlin into a manageable, celebrity vector.
      And while the chances are slim, Dmitry Bykov warned against dismissing a possible victory entirely.
      "He has [political] capital as Dr. Bykov" - who is Russia's popular answer to Dr. House.
      ----

      FORGET SCREW-TIGHTENING: The president's speech in Yaroslavl and its aftermath
      By: Irina Granik, Victor Khamrayev
      Kommersant, September 9, 2011

      DMITRY MEDVEDEV IS AGAINST THE SCREW-TIGHTENING IN THE SPHERE OF ETHNIC RELATIONS
      Dmitry Medvedev is against the policy of screw-tightening in the sphere of ethnic relations, against calls to deport all immigrants from Russia, and those "resolved to line up and march into the brilliant future". Delivering a speech at the international political forum in Yaroslavl, the president curiously failed to identify those who tightened the screws or "lined up to march". Neither did he say anything in connection with the forthcoming presidential election. What Medvedev did was clarify his position on the subject of ethnic harmony in a multi-ethnic democracy.
      Medvedev predictably made an emphasis on the item of the agenda that dealt with socially-orientated states and social diversities. I.e. on the problems of ethnic relations worsening against the background of economic problems and financial stratification in the world developing information society accompanied by massive emigration. Transition from post-industrial to information society is regrettably inseparable from "tension in the ethnic relations, worsening ethnic crime, and illegal immigration" that become "an unsolvable problem for some countries". The prelude over, Medvedev concentrated on how he thought the Russian state ought to deal with these new challenges.
      Medvedev said, "The state ought to understand its citizens regardless of their culture, ethnic origin, or occupation... The temptation to tighten the screws all over again is becoming almost impossible to resist, these days. Excuses to do so are countless. Crime, separatism, poverty... what is to be done about these problems? Tighten the screws and close the ranks around leaders is the solution regularly resorted to in the past." "It will be wrong to encroach on the rights of people, and doubly so to stifle criticism." Neither did Medvedev find to his taste the calls to oust all immigrants from Russia and clamp down on ethnic minorities. The president said, "We have a lot of individuals in Russia quite happy to line up and march into the brilliant future. I'm convinced, however, that Russia does not need that. Even worse, it will do Russia no good at all... It is the state that ought to follow social trends rather than vice versa."
      According to Medvedev, the Russian state had to implement five strategic premises to succeed. He listed them as betterment of financial and information support for non-governmental organizations, free access to independent sources of information for citizens, betterment of the framework of education and academic sciences, and "development of all traditional and contemporary cultures without exception". The fifth premise concerned the forthcoming parliamentary election to be organized under new rules better in harmony with the Constitution that stood for "ideological and political diversity". Medvedev therefore reiterated the necessity to modernize the political system and castigated whoever "demanded swift reforms and results right away" and whoever "insisted on leaving everything the way it was."
      For some reason, however, Medvedev never identified those who in his opinion were insisting on the screw-tightening policy. Participants in the forum were therefore free to make guesses on that score.
      Alexander Shokhin of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs suggested that "screw-tightening" and "lining up and marching" were references to United Russia and the Russian Popular Front he himself was a member of. Shokhin said, "The way I see it, the president was talking of the participants in the forum who insisted on a hard line and abandonment of the concept of multi-cultural coexistence [Russian Representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin was such participant as his speech at the forum revealed - Kommersant]. The president did not say who he was talking about but those who insisted on a no-nonsense policy must have decided that he was addressing them... The speech was a message to political forces that whichever of the would be forming power structures before very long had better follow the principles he outlined."
      Vladimir Pligin of United Russia would not even venture a guess on who the president had been addressing. "I agree with the president... that there are no simple solutions to all these problems," said Pligin.
      Leaders of political parties were busy yesterday wit<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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