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Bulletin 6:23 (2012)

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 6, No. 23(179), 20 September 2012 Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta,
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 19, 2012
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 6, No. 23(179), 20 September 2012
      Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta, Vildane Oezkan & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 1 - 15 September 2012

      [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. When quoting from an article found here, please, mention the RNB, as the source. Thank you!]

      I NEWS: 1 - 15 September 2012

      Orthodox Youth Group Formed as Surkov Becomes Religion Envoy
      By Nikolaus von Twickel
      The Moscow Times, September 3, 2012

      Orthodox Church officials have announced plans to set up a nationwide youth movement, just days after Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov, formerly the Kremlin's point man on youth affairs, assumed full responsibility of overseeing ties with religious organizations.
      Tens of thousands of young people are ready to join the movement, tentatively called the Voluntary Association of Orthodox Youth, Vadim Kvyatkovsky, who is responsible for youth affairs in the Moscow Patriarchate, told Interfax on Friday.
      He said the organization would be open to representatives of the entire political spectrum and be headed by Bishop Ignaty Bronnitsky, who chairs the Patriarchate's youth affairs department.
      The move comes as the Russian Orthodox Church faces unrelenting criticism both at home and abroad over the Pussy Riot case.
      President Vladimir Putin endorsed the idea of an Orthodox youth movement in July.
      While visiting the Lake Seliger youth camp, he said he would support such a movement if it does not become "a new quasi-Orthodox Komsomol," a reference to the Soviet Union's all-embracing Communist youth league.
      Kvyatkovsky, however, was adamant that the initiative was by no means artificial but driven by grassroots demand in parishes. "Life is forcing us to make this happen," he was quoted as saying.
      The Kremlin has in the past actively set up youth organizations to counter perceived political threats. One of the most publicized of such groups, Nashi, was founded in 2005 in the wake of Ukraine's Orange Revolution.
      Surkov, believed to be the key official behind Nashi and other pro-Kremlin youth movements, was last week confirmed as the government's new point man on religion.
      In an Aug. 28 decree, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev appointed Surkov chairman of the state's commission on religious organizations, a job hitherto held by Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets.
      Surkov until last year oversaw domestic policies as first deputy head of the presidential administration, a job that included ties with religious organizations. He was appointed a deputy prime minister in December, a move widely seen as a demotion in the wake of mass anti-government protests.
      However, Surkov's star rose again when he assumed the additional post of head of the White House administration in May. In early August, he was given the portfolio for religious affairs - but not the commission chairmanship.
      Analysts have said Surkov's appointment to oversee religious issues in the government is a tool to repair the image of the Orthodox Church, which has suffered heavily not only over the Pussy Riot trial but also from scandals like the one prompted by the manipulation of a photo to remove an expensive watch on Patriarch Kirill's wrist.
      A government source quoted by Kommersant on Friday said Surkov's appointment was his first political mission since he was removed from the Kremlin in December. The report also said that the commission's main tasks will be "to prevent the abuse of religion for extremist purposes" and to mend the negative image of the Orthodox Church, among other things.

      Medvedev Opens 1812 Patriotic War Museum
      RIA Novosti, September 4, 2012

      Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday attended a ceremony to open a museum of the 1812 Patriotic War against Napoleon in Moscow and visited the renovated Triumphal Arch.
      The museum was opened as part of Russia's celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of its victory in the war.
      The museum was due to open in around 1912 to coincide with the 100th anniversary celebrations, but the building was never built. Most of its exhibits have been handed over to the Historical Museum in Moscow.
      "By opening this museum in today, when we mark the 200th anniversary of our historical victory in the War of 1812, we are putting the historical record straight," Medvedev said.
      The Russian premier also visited the Grand Triumphal Arch, built in 1834 to celebrate the victory over Napoleon. The arch, one of Russia's first monuments dedicated to the victory in the War of 1812, opened on Tuesday after renovation.
      "The arch was renovated ahead of the anniversary celebrations, and by this we restore our cultural heritage, our spirit of patriotism and our historical memory," Medvedev said.


      Church will increase spiritual influence on authorities, society - Patriarch Kirill
      Johnson's Russia List, September 5, 2012 (Interfax, JRL 2012-160)

      Moscow, September 5, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has denied the allegations on the increasing mingling of the church and the state in Russia.
      "People who say that the Church in Russia is very closely connected with the state are wrong. It's not true," the Patriarch said in an interview with the Japanese media before his visit to Japan.
      Patriarch said the Church is working with the authorities on the restoration of cultural monuments, education of the youth, culture, and social sphere, but has no goal to influence state politics.
      "However, we are preaching to people, including our authorities. We bring certain values to our people, primarily moral values. And we insist that politics should be based on morals. Politics without morals do not benefit those who pursue those policies and those who are influenced by these policies," he said.
      For this reason, the influence exerted by the church on political life is "moral, not political."
      "Our ill-wishers are telling tales about the Church, and these tales spread worldwide became stereotypes spread fast," he said.
      Patriarch Kirill said the Church wants to influence everyone, "including state figures and ordinary people so that the morals the church preach are adopted by our people's consciousness."
      The Patriarch said the Russian Church "has been very successful in its mission" for the past 20 years because at the beginning of its activities "the majority of people were atheists and the percentage of believers was not high." Patriarch Kirill said up to 80% of people in Russia have been baptized, 65% said they have an affiliation with the church, and over 40% go to church at least once or twice a year. The number of believers who go to church every week has increased and the average believer has become younger, the Patriarch said.
      "We are talking about the increase of spiritual influence on the life of our society and people. It's our task. We have a duty to do it and we will do it," Patriarch Kirill said.


      Russian human rights ambassador warns West against lecturing on Pussy Riot case
      Interfax-Religion, September 5, 2012

      Moscow, September 5, Interfax - Russian Foreign Ministry Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law Commissioner Konstantin Dolgov offered some explanations on the Pussy Riot case at a meeting with French Ambassador for Human Rights Francois Zimeray on Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
      Zimeray set out his position "on the court ruling on the Pussy Riot case, putting an emphasis on excessive severity of the sentence that a Russian court handed down on the activists of this punk group. Zimeray pointed to this story's high profile in French and European public opinion," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
      "The Russian party provided exhaustive explanations. It was noted that the court ruling has nothing to do with accusations being addressed to Russia regarding violations of freedom of speech and artistic expression, but was handed down after careful examination of all facts within the framework of procedural norms existing in the Russian Federation, and can be appealed in a procedure stipulated by the law," it said.
      Moscow "once again called on its foreign partners to avoid over-politicized judgments and lecturing, which cannot be perceived other than interference in Russia's internal affairs," it said.
      The Russian diplomat said at the meeting that "decisions by independent judicial bodies must be respected, with which the French representative agreed," it said.
      "It was particularly stressed that the punk band members' unlawful actions ran counter not only to the law but also to traditional values and the understanding of morality existing in Russian society, which hurt the rights and feelings of millions of Orthodox believers and drew broad public condemnation," the Foreign Ministry said.
      Dolgov also mentioned observance of human rights in European Union countries, it said.
      "It was pointed out that both the EU member-states and European Union institutions need to resolve numerous problems that have piled up in this area more efficiently and consistently, including in the context of the recent appointment of the EU special representative for human rights," it said.


      Putin Arrives in Vladivostok to Take Part in APEC Summit
      RIA Novosti, September 6, 2012

      Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok to take part in the 2012 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on September 7-9.
      Putin will start his participation in the APEC summit by delivering a speech at the business summit on Friday, his aide Yury Ushakov said on Wednesday.
      The business summit will gather more than 500 leading entrepreneurs from Pacific Rim countries. The official part of the APEC summit will be held on September 8-9.
      Ushakov said nearly all APEC members will be represented at the top level, whereas the United States will be represented by State Secretary Hillary Clinton. President Barack Obama will be unable to attend due to an ongoing election campaign in his country.
      Among the priorities that Russia has chosen for its APEC presidency are trade and investment liberalization, regional economic integration, strengthening food security, forming reliable transport and logistics systems and cooperation in attaining innovation growth goals.
      At the end of the summit, APEC leaders plan to adopt a joint declaration.
      Putin is scheduled to hold a number of bilateral meetings with heads of APEC states and governments on the sidelines of the forum.
      The summit will end with the Russian president's news conference.
      This is the first time Russia, an APEC member since 1998, is hosting the summit of the group, created in 1989 to promote economic cooperation in the Pacific Rim.
      Since Russia assumed APEC's rotating presidency on January 1, it has organized more than 100 events, including ministerial conferences, sessions of committees and working groups, seminars and conferences. More than 50 Russian initiatives have either been implemented or are being put into practice.
      Indonesia will assume the forum's rotating presidency in 2013.


      Putin Jokes About Orgy, But Slams Pussy Riot
      By Alexander Bratersky
      Moscow Times, 07 September 2012

      In his first interview since his May inauguration, President Vladimir Putin joked about Pussy Riot's racy name and one member's scandalous 2008 orgy with art group Voina. But he also condemned the band's church performances as "witches' sabbaths," yet denied any involvement in the case. In reference to the orgy, which featured then-Voina member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova at a Moscow biological museum, Putin joked: "Many enthusiasts say group sex is better than one-on-one because, like in any group project, you can slack off." The orgy, titled "[Expletive] for the Heir Puppy Bear!," was videotaped and dedicated to the 2008 presidential election. The surname of 5-foot, 2-inch-tall Dmitry Medvedev, who became president that year, means "of the bears." "They had group sex in a public place. This, as they say, is their own business, people have the right to do what they want as long as it doesn't break the law," Putin told the state-run RT television channel. "But in a public place, it seems that already then, the authorities should have paid attention to this." When asked to comment about Pussy Riot's controversial performance at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, Putin replied: "What they did in the cathedral, they first did at Yelokhovsky Cathedral: They came and had a witches' sabbath, then they went to another cathedral and had another one there." He added, "In our country there is a very heavy memory of the beginning of Soviet times, when a large number of clergymen suffered." Putin also asked the British interviewer to translate the name "Pussy Riot" into Russian, only to later admit that he already knew what it meant. Three Pussy Riot members were recently sentenced to two years in prison for the Christ the Savior Cathedral performance in which they called for the Virgin Mary to "cast Putin out." They have appealed the verdict. When asked about the verdict, Putin said: "A higher court is empowered to make any decision. To be honest, I have tried to stay as far away from the case as possible." The band's appeal is currently under consideration by the Moscow City Court, Tolokonnikova's lawyer, Mark Feigin, told The Moscow Times on Thursday. Feigin said he felt Putin's comments about the band were a signal to the court to be "tough" with them. "Putin said he is not interested in the case, but his interview shows otherwise. He presents himself as a person who knows a lot of the details, even those unrelated to the case," Feigin said.

      Racism and Xenophobia in Russia. Summary, August 2012
      SOVA, September 10, 2012

      In August 2012 at least 15 people were injured due to racist and neo-Nazi attacks in the Moscow and Moscow region, St. Petersburg, Orel region, and the Republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Approximately one third of these victims were injured on the 2nd of August, a national day of celebrations dedicated to the Russian Airborne Troops. In connection to this event at least 5 people were injured in 4 different regions of the country due to racist attacks by drunken paratroopers.
      In addition, during August 2012 several Orthodox activists in Moscow attacked people and organizations that, in one way or another, demonstrated support for the punk-group "Pussy Riot".
      In August there was a number of conflicts involving people of different ethnicities. The conflicts started for different reasons but all had xenophobic overtones. The most notable of these conflicts was the clash between local people and Roma in the village of 'Krotovka' in the Samara region, as well as the attack on the vendors at the 'Southern Market' in Stavropol.
      It is of importance to mention the events in the village 'Pobeda' in the Leningrad region. Outraged by a rape of a woman, the local residents did not only expel all the foreign workers from the village but also personally chased these 'illegals' around the local area, beating them and then handing them over to the police. This happened in spite of the fact that the crime was immediately solved as the perpetrator was instantly detained and found guilty.
      Overall, since the beginning of this year, 12 people have been killed and 129 people injured in racist violence, 1 person received death threats; these events have played out in 21 Russian regions.
      In August there has been a record of numerous cases of racist behaviour among football fans. For instance, a supporter group of FC 'Zenit'- the football hooligans  group -"Snake City Firm" in St. Petersburg, beat up a group of natives of the North Caucasus, as they were headed to Moscow to watch a game against the Makhachkala team "Anji". In Moscow, on the eve of the match, a xenophobic banner was hung up directed to the fans of "Anji".
      In August, there were at least 15 acts of neo-Nazi vandalism in 11 regions of the country. Two-thirds of these acts were carried out on Orthodox sites (10 cases), and were all associated with the announcement of the sentence of "Pussy Riot" on August 17.
      In addition, the vandals damaged several Muslim and Protestant buildings, Pentecostal Church (1 case) and Vladimir Lenin monuments (2 cases). Overall, since the beginning of this year, we have recorded attacks on at least 64 sites in 30 regions of the country.
      The SOVA-Center has not come across any information about convictions, carried out in August, in cases of racist violence motivated by hatred. In total since the beginning of this year at least 16 verdicts have been issued against 45 people.
      We should mention the verdict issued on August 8 by the Tverskoy Court of Moscow convicting Nikolai Dvoynyakov, Vitaliy Vasin, Vladimir Kirpichnikov and Gregory Bilchenko on charges of rioting at Manezhnaya Square on December 11, 2010. Depending on their individual acts, each of the young men were found guilty according to different articles of the Criminal Code (e.g. participation in mass riots, violence against a public officer, hooliganism) and each sentenced to different terms, from two years of probation to three years of actual imprisonment. Hate motivation was not taken into account in these articles. One of the accused, V. Kirpichnikov, was however in addition convicted by part 1 of article 282 (incitement to ethnic hatred).
      In August 2012 at least 4 verdicts were issued against 4 people for xenophobic propaganda - in Moscow, Vologda and Novosibirsk regions and the Republic of Bashkortostan. Altogether in 2012, 50 verdicts were issued in cases of racist propaganda in 33 regions of the country, accordingly 71 people were convicted.
      During the past month the Federal List of Extremist Materials, compiled by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, was extended to include paragraphs 1365-1426.
      The list has been extended with for example: xenophobic materials, including videos from the online social network "Vkontakte", publication from the site "Rehabilitation swastika. For people of good will", the newspaper "Orthodox Rus", an article from the newspaper "Cossack View", the book "The Russian Orthodox Church and the Modern Pre-Antichrist Era", some comments from the social network website "Odnoklassniki",an article by Alexander Dugin, islamic materials including the websites "Kavkazinform", "Islamdin", hunafa.com, lectures by Khamidullin, an ideologist from religious association "At-Takfir wal-Hegira", muslim religious works, including an essay of medieval Islamic theologian al-Ghazali and the website of the Azerbaijani Islamic independent news publication milleti-ibrahim.info, a book by Svetlana Ziyarvoy, "Back From the Future", several issues of the magazine "Zvezda Selennoy".
      Some parts of this ban are, in our opinion, wrongly imposed.
      In August, the Moscow City Court classified the interregional civil association the "Northern Brotherhood" (Severnoe Bratstvo) as an extremist organization.  In total there are 29 organizations of this kind published on the official website of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation (terrorist organizations are not included.)


      Russian Patriarch starting tour of Siberia, Far East, Japan
      Interfax-Religion, September 11, 2012

      Moscow, September 11, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is beginning a visit to the Krasnoyarsk Diocese on Tuesday.
      The Russian Patriarch plans to visit the Cathedral of the Intercession, the oldest church in Krasnoyarsk, on the first day. On September 12, the day commemorating the translation of the Relics of St. Alexander of the Neva, he will dedicate the Church of the Nativity, the largest one in Krasnoyarsk, and conduct the first liturgy.
      On September 13 Patriarch Kirill will visit churches and monasteries in Yeniseysk and Lesosibirsk.
      The Patriarch's visit to Japan will last from September 14 to 18.
      On September 19 he will arrive in the Primorye Diocese and visit the Intercession Cathedral in Vladivostok, and then dedicate the lower church of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan in Nakhodka.
      On the final day of the tour, September 21, which marks the holiday of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Patriarch will conduct a liturgy in Vladivostok's central square.


      Kosovo Issue Must be Settled Within UN Framework - Putin
      RIA Novosti, September 11, 2012

      The issue of Kosovo's independence must be resolved only within the framework of the UN principles, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after meeting with his Serbian counterpart Tomislav Nikolic on Tuesday.
      Kosovo, a landlocked region with a population consisting mainly ethnic Albanians, declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008. More than 90 nations, including the United States, acknowledged Kosovo's independence.
      "It is necessary to look for the solution to the problem in the course of negotiations, based primarily on the UN Security Council Resolution 1244," Putin said at a joint news conference with Nikolic.
      The Serbian president, who is currently on an official visit to Russia, said Serbia would never resort to force in solving the Kosovo issue.
      "We are not going to do anything using force, and will be acting within the framework of the UN," Nikolic said.
      Both Serbia and Russia do not recognize Kosovo's independence. On Monday, the 25-nation International Steering Group, which guided Kosovo after the latter declared independence, formally ended its supervision of the region.


      Hundreds gather to mark massive Holocaust pogrom in Russia
      UCSJ, 11 September 2012

      (JTA) - More than 1,000 people gathered at Rostov-on-Don, which 70 years ago witnessed the worst Holocaust atrocity in Russia.
      Wearing arm bands marked with a Star of David, the crowd on Sunday marched to the mass grave of approximately 27,000 people executed by German soldiers near the city in 1942. Most of the victims were Jewish, according to the Russian Jewish Congress.
      Leading the procession was Rabbi Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor and former chief rabbi of Israel.
      "The unprecedented turnout shows the memory of the Jewish genocide in Rostov is shared and preserved by Jews and non-Jews," Russian Jewish Congress President Yury Kanner said.
      Last year the memorial site became the subject of a legal fight between Kanner's organization and local government. The Russian Jewish Congress petitioned the court about a memorial plaque that city officials had placed last November at the city's Zmievskaya Balka mass grave that noted "mass killing by the fascists of captured Soviet citizens." It replaced a plaque from 2004 that did mention the Holocaust.
      A ruling on the matter is expected later this year, according to Matvey Chlenov, the RJC's deputy executive director. Chlenov told JTA that city officials wrote a memo warning that mentioning the Holocaust could lead to "ethnic unrest."
      Southern Russia is home to many immigrants from the Caucasus region. Nationalist Russians staged riots there in 2010.
      "We believe the new plaque is a parody more than any case of anti-Semitism or deliberate Holocaust obfuscation," Chlenov said. "We nonetheless believe the original plaque at Zmievskaya Balka must be restored. It's a matter of basic recognition of the identity of the victims."


      Kremlin Dismisses European Criticism Over Human Rights Violation
      RIA Novosti, September 13, 2012

      Moscow disagrees with criticism over the allegedly deteriorating human rights situation in Russia expressed by European lawmakers on Thursday because their conclusions are based on unconfirmed and unreliable sources, Russian president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.
      On Thursday the European Parliament adopted a resolution that reflects its grave concern about "the deteriorating climate" for the development of civil society in Russia and refers to the recent legislation on demonstrations, NGOs, defamationand the Internet.
      "We cannot agree with this resolution, as it is unclear what sources of information the document relies upon and what kind of analysis the European lawmakers used as the groundwork for their conclusions," Peskov said.
      "It is certain, though, that these sources are unreliable and the analysis distorts reality," the official said.
      The resolution specifically cites the notorious cases of the punk band Pussy Riot, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and the opposition party member Gennady Gudkov as examples of politically motivated intimidation of opposition activists and abuse of power by the Russian law enforcement authorities.
      The European lawmakers also expressed fear that the law on extremism in Russia could lead to the restriction of the freedoms of association, expression and belief in the country.
      The non-legislative resolution urged the European Union "to exert constant pressure on the Russian authorities to meet the OSCE standards on human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary."


      Patriarch Kirill visits Japan
      Interfax-Religion, September 14, 2012

      Moscow, September 14, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on Friday begins his visit to Japan, here he will stay until September 18. The visit is timed to the 100th anniversary of the death of St. Nicholas of Japan, the Russian missionary who founded the Orthodox Church in Japan.
      The visit "will give me an opportunity to pray with the Orthodox people of Japan and remember a wonderful person, a saint, who devoted all his life to Japan, identified himself with the people of Japan and brought Orthodox faith to them. This will give me an opportunity to visit the places connected with the life of Archbishop Nicholas," Patriarch Kirill said in an interview with the Japanese media in Moscow.
      The Patriarch's trip will begin in Hakodate, a political, economic, and cultural center located in the southern part of the island of Hokkaido. He also intends to visit Sendai, Honshu, where "the people of Japan were hurt by the tsunami" last year and where several Orthodox churches were destroyed. Sendai is the center of the Eastern Japanese Diocese.
      "I would like to once again express my support to the people of Japan, pray with people, remember the victims, and support those who have lost their relatives and loved ones," he said.
      The Patriarch is also expected to meet with the Japanese authorities, including Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
      Patriarch Kirill has visited Japan many times before being elected the Primate of Russian Church. The first visit took place in 1969.
      The Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church was founded by Russian missionary Archimandrite Nicholas (Kasatkin) (who later became an archbishop), who arrived in Japan in 1861. In 1870, he founded and headed the Russian Orthodox mission in Japan. He translated the Holy Scriptures and church books into Japanese and built the Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Tokyo. In 1970, St. Nicholas was canonized by the Russian church. In the same year, the Moscow Patriarchate gave the Japanese Orthodox Church autonomous status.


      Tatar nationalists demand hijab ban annulment
      Interfax-Religion, September 14, 2012

      Kazan, September 14, Interfax - Tatarstan's youth union Azatlyk (Freedom) held a rally near Kazan State Medical University on Friday to defend Muslim female students' rights.
      "We have learned that the college management wants to ban wearing the hijab (the veil which leaves only the face and hands uncovered). The female students were informed of the plans verbally and they complained on the Internet," Azatlyk leader Nail Nabiullin told Interfax.
      Fifteen people took part in the protest rally, he said. They held posters with inscriptions urging the college management to respect the rights of Muslim women and to prevent religious discrimination, he added.
      "Our activists talked with the college administration and they were assured that no curbs will be put on Muslim female students' rights," Nabiullin said.
      The protest rally had been authorized and it lasted about an hour without any incidents.
      Meanwhile, the college administration has denied reports that a ban had been imposed on wearing the hijab.


      Cossacks granted permission to form private security firm
      Nathan Toohey
      The Moscow News, September 14, 2012

      Cossacks in the Kransodar Region have been granted permission to form their own private security firm, Interfax reported on Friday.
      "The Kuban Cossack Army Society will be provided the right to establishment of private security organization," Interfax quoted the government order as saying on Friday.
      In August, Krasnodar Region Governor Alexander Tkachyov called for Cossack patrols to be created to keep people from the Caucasus out of his region.



      Meeting the ultra-nationalist skinheads of Russia
      By Tom Esslemont
      Searchlight, September 1, 2012

      For several months, opposition protests in Russia have given liberal anti-Putin Russians an opportunity to make their feelings heard. However, it is not just liberals who have been out on the streets but other groups too, including far-right nationalists.
      Over the years I have met some pretty hardened Russian men on my travels. Muscular guys, able to handle their drink, and most importantly - fond of a joke.
      But rather like the ice in a Siberian winter, there are those who take a far colder, harsher view on life.
      They call themselves skinheads - although shaven heads are no longer mandatory.
      In recent years skinheads have been held responsible for many of the far right attacks on immigrants across Russia. Many of the perpetrators have been locked up. Some have since been freed.
      Maxim is one such former convict. We meet in the garden of a Moscow burger restaurant. We sit not far from the sizzle of beef on a grill, surrounded by the yelping and chanting of children, hyperactive after sugary drinks.
      It was not, perhaps, the most appropriate place to meet a notorious ultra-nationalist, one who has done time for incitement of racial hatred. Especially one whose nickname, Tesak, means machete.
      Munching on his burger, he made it clear to me that he was angry, fearful and by the looks of his two young, well-built henchmen, possibly quite dangerous.
      "I think immigrants should be housed in separate workers' villages," he told me. He went on to explain how he felt they were sponging off society and putting Russian women in danger of attack.
      Then he got out his knife.
      I looked up at him, expecting a menacing smile. Instead all I saw was mischief. An eyebrow raised as if he had just learnt how to make the gesture - and then he leaned over to his henchmen, whispered something in their ears and they giggled.
      "Have you ever had to use it?" I asked, trying to bring him back to the interview.
      "I told you not to ask such stupid questions," he said, putting it away. He gave a twitch of the eyebrow to his two bodyguards, who then laughed in that sinister way that does not involve smiling.
      The comment took me back to a video I had watched on the internet before setting out. It showed a man - possibly from central Asia or the Caucasus - being dragged through a forest. It's like some dark horror movie, but this is real.
      There are screams, which may have been added later. But then, the man is tied up and killed. The details of how he is savagely murdered are too horrific to watch. Those who have studied the video assure me of its authenticity and say the killing is the work of a far-right gang.
      No authority seems to have the power or desire to take it off the web.
      It is part of the lawlessness of Russia - a country where the armed ultra-nationalists seem to have almost been given free rein to take the law into their own hands.
      These men all take the same anti-immigrant view as Tesak, but some are better educated and articulate their campaign more effectively.
      Roman is a law student who wants to be a customs officer. In his spare time he gains entry to squalid basements, trying to check the papers of migrants who live there.
      Then there is the lawyer, Dmitry, who spends his Sundays away from his family in the countryside with his gun, practising firing at paper targets so that, if it comes to it, he is ready to take on the immigrants.
      I met the worldly Russian neo-Nazi, Nils, who had studied Nietzsche overseas. He saw himself as quite the uber-human.
      In every interview I was trying to understand why these people felt the way they did. I asked myself, "Were they born like this? Would they beat up any non-white person they did not like?"
      All of them tried to twist the conversation if they did not like the questions. Smiles would quickly evaporate turning into venomous, dead, serious glares that meant one thing - change the subject.
      The men I met had a number of things in common. They did not drink, they despised modern, drunken, vodka-shot Russia, they despised Putin for having, they believe, tolerated multiculturalism.
      And they all shared a total lack of irony.
      The members of Russia's far right exist in a weird, dark, mysterious world, one they want all fellow Slavs to inhabit.
      They may have the power to attract a following of other youngsters through their internet campaigns and sheer street credibility. They may be able to skirt the law to take on someone they do not like. They may be growing as a political force. It is hard to say.
      But they do not own Russia. And although many Russians are strongly nationalistic, most of them would never like to let the skinheads have their way.
      Credit: BBC News


      Why most Russians aren't fans of Pussy Riot: The Russian left's habit of offending national identity keeps it on the margins
      By Paul Robinson
      The Ottawa Citizen, 1 September 2012

      'The Russian liberal," wrote the 19th-century Russian philosopher Boris Chicherin, "travels on a few high-sounding words: freedom, openness, public opinion ... which he interprets as having no limits. ... Hence he regards as products of outrageous despotism the most elementary concepts, such as obedience to law or the need for a police and bureaucracy."
      Had he been alive today, Chicherin might have had in mind the Russian punk rock bank Pussy Riot, whose members' antics have included in-decent acts in a museum and with a frozen chicken in a super-market, and whose supporters seem genuinely surprised to discover that there are legal limits to political protest in Russia. The band's recent, much publicized, trial and conviction for acts of religious hatred commit-ted in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow have provided an opportunity for a great deal of Russia-bashing in the Western media. While to some extent this is justified, another story is being missed, and that is the condition of Russian liberal-ism. For, while the current Russian government is indeed deeply flawed, the electoral weakness of Russia's liberal opposition is not a product so much of state repression as of even deeper flaws within the liberal movement itself, which have rendered it anathema to most of the Russian population. Pussy Riot and the reactions to their conviction reveal these flaws rather neatly.
      In a letter written from prison in 2004, titled The Crisis of Russian Liberalism, the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky commented that Vladimir Putin was more liberal than 70 per cent of the Russian population. There is, perhaps, some truth to this. Putin, after all, urged the courts to be lenient to Pussy Riot, whereas opinion polls suggested a large proportion of Russians wanted the band to be punished heavily and only a minimal number, fewer than five per cent, thought its members should escape unpunished.
      In these conditions, one should not expect the furore over the harsh sentence to produce an anti-government back-lash in Russia. Indeed, the contrary is more likely. There has been a notable lack of public support for Pussy Riot, but their actions did result in a mass demonstration of tens of thousands of Orthodox believers outside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in support of the church, a protest which was as large as, if not larger than, any of those staged by the liberal opposition against Vladimir Putin.
      The harsh reaction against Pussy Riot was not because the band protested against Putin; it had done that many times before without being arrested. Rather, it was because it chose to attack the Church, not merely shouting "Sh**, Sh**! The Lord's Sh**" in the cathedral sanctuary, but also accusing the clergy of political and financial corruption and implying that the head of the Church believed in Putin rather than in God.
      For centuries, being Russian has been synonymous with being Orthodox. Most Russians do not go to church on a regular basis but would probably nevertheless consider themselves Orthodox. For them, Orthodoxy is more than a religion. It is a centrepiece of national identity. When communism collapsed, one of the most immediately visible changes was the restoration of hundreds of churches across the country. This was not be-cause people had suddenly be-come more religious, but be-cause they were resurrecting a suppressed identity by reviving an ancient symbol. Consequently, many see an attack on the Church as an attack on Russia and, as such, a fundamentally unpatriotic act.
      For a very long time, Russian conservatives have denounced their liberal compatriots as slavish copiers of the West, and have claimed that liberals, as Chicherin noted, have regarded themselves as above the law. Russian liberals seem to have done their best to fit the stereo-type. In the 1990s, for instance, they introduced rapid economic reform in accordance with Western models, and in the eyes of many Russians sold the country's interests off to the West at bargain-basement prices while corruptly enriching themselves in the process. In turn, Pussy Riot's church protest can be seen as contemptuous of both Russian law and Russian national identity, reinforcing the negative stereotypes which many have of the political opposition.
      In his 2004 letter, Mikhail Khodorkovsy spoke of the need for liberals in Russia to show greater respect for the state and for Russian national traditions. This is a lesson which the op-position in Russia has failed to heed, showing itself arrogant and tone deaf to the surrounding political culture. Until Russian liberals take this to heart, they will continue to languish on the margins of Russian politics, and Vladimir Putin can re-main confident that his position is not under serious threat.
      (Paul Robinson is a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and the author of numerous works on Russian and Soviet history.)


      Recalling 1812 battle, Putin calls for unity in Russia
      By Gleb Bryanski
      Reuters, September 2, 2012

      BORODINO, Russia (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin made a rousing call for unity among Russia's diverse ethnic and religious groups on Sunday as he led commemorations of a battle 200 years ago that led to the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. Standing by a monument at the scene of the 1812 Battle of Borodino, 120 km (75 miles) west of Moscow, Putin delivered a speech extolling the virtues of patriotism that enabled Russia to repel the French army in 1812. Back as president since May, Putin faces more open opposition in big cities than at any time since he first rose to power in 2000, and a persistent Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus. For the second time in five days he called for unity, underlining his concern that the insurgency could spread and threaten the integrity of Russia, home to many nationalities and religions. "Only when Russia's nations were united, were together, they achieved the best results in the development of their fatherland," Putin told Russian and foreign dignitaries, including former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing. "By and large patriotism, which was the basis of all our major victories, comes down to the unity of the Russian nation." Putin also evoked the Battle of Borodino to rally Russians behind him in his successful presidential election bid last winter. The Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus, more than a decade after Putin toppled a separatist government in Chechnya, could also undermine unity in other parts of Russia. The killing of a Muslim cleric in July in the central province of Tatarstan, in Russia's heartland, showed violence may be spreading to other mainly Muslim regions. The Battle of Borodino on September 7, 1812, remembered by Russians as an epic victory, is commemorated in Lev Tolstoy's novel "War and Peace". Neither side won a decisive victory in the battle and tens of thousands of soldiers were killed on both sides before the Russians withdrew and abandoned Moscow to the French. The Russian troops regrouped and the French, after occupying Moscow, were forced by badly stretched supply lines, the cold winter and lack of reinforcements, to withdraw from Russia, constantly harassed by Russian forces. Putin, speaking after laying a wreath at the monument close to the field where actors re-enacted the battle, also used the anniversary to call for unity between European nations. "Such occasions as today do not only serve to remember bloody events. This is a good reason to speak about how we should build relations with our neighbors, our current friends in the common European home," he said. "I'm deeply convinced that real reconciliation and respect for the past, for our common history, for the heroism of our predecessors, for the honor and bravery of the soldiers carrying out their war duty, is the foundation for really friendly relations between countries and nations," he said. Russians also take pride in their country's effort to defeat Nazi Germany in World War Two, which began on September 1, 1939, at the cost of millions of Soviet soldiers and civilians. "We were more often together than at war. France was always our strategic ally," Putin told Giscard d'Estaing. "I hope we will manage with our friends from France and other European countries to do more to unite Europe on the basis of moral values." Tens of thousands of Russians and foreigners gathered at the scene of the battle on Sunday to watch the colorful re-enactment by more than 3,000 military enthusiasts. Nine planes were used to disperse clouds over the scene, but rain soon covered the field, along with grey smoke steaming from historic weaponry. "The level of patriotism in our country has sunk in the last 25 years. Such events help to bring it back," said Alexei Rogatnev from St Petersburg, dressed as a 19th century Russian soldier.

      2012-#159-Johnson's Russia List

      Agamemnon sidelined: why the victory in 1812-1815 was less rewarding for Russia than for the rest of Europe
      By Dmitry Babich
      Valdai Discussion Club, 3 September 2012

      Russia's role in the events of 1812-1815 which ultimately led to the defeat of Napoleonic France and established the first system of "collective security" in Europe at the Viennese Congress, was a monumental, but unjustly underestimated achievement. Why was it monumental? The mere fact that the Congress of Vienna terminated a 25 years long period of European history, which had been marred by constant wars and instability, speaks for itself. A period of relative inter-state peace in European history followed until the Crimean war of 1853-1856; some historians extend this period until the start of World War I in 1914, since the periodic conflicts that erupted during those 100 years, were certainly less acute than the "volcanic activity" that followed the French Revolution of 1789. The European order created in Vienna in 1815 saw Europe produce some of the greatest technical and artistic achievements in the history of mankind. This relatively benign turn of events was by no means guaranteed: in 1812 Russia was outnumbered and outgunned by the combined forces of the rest of Europe headed by Napoleon; Paris's fall in 1814 was the first such event in 400 years (last time the French capital fell in 1415); in 1813-1814 Napoleon several times "reproduced" smaller versions of "la Grande Armée" which he had led to Russia in 1812.
      Why was the victory forgotten?
      Why was Russia's role underestimated? Inside Russia itself, the reason was the seizure of power in 1917 by Bolsheviks, a special kind of extremists which justly found in themselves lots of similarities with the French revolutionaries of 1790s. The early Bolsheviks found in themselves even more sympathy for Napoleon, who was both an offspring and a destroyer of the French Revolution, than for the hated czar and the Russian state that he symbolized. Russia's communist rulers viewed the European settlement of 1814-1815 as a success of their mortal enemy - the Tsarist regime - and willingly supported the version about this settlement's "reactionary" character. Stalin, having "rehabilitated" the defensive war of 1812, did not go as far as recognizing Russia's role in the greatest European stabilization in the nineteenth century. So, Russia had to wait until 1990s for an alternative, more benign view of these events to become possible on its own territory.
      Inside the countries of Western and Central Europe, as well as the United States, the reasons for lessening Russia's role in the 1812-1815 ordeal were, obviously, different from the ones dominating in Russia. They were connected with the raison d'état and a wish to "forget about Russia," still very strong in the West. The anti-Napoleonic coalition that ultimately toppled Bonaparte in 1813-1815 was in fact a "coalition of the unwilling," just like the anti-Hitler coalition in 1941-1945. The Western powers in both cases refused to see Russia as a real long-term ally. Forced to ally themselves to Russia for some time by sudden outbursts of the dark, destructive, anti-Christian forces, hidden in the very nature of the godless "pragmatic" vision of European destiny and embodied in the figures of Napoleon and Hitler, the Western powers parted ways with Russia as soon as the coalition's immediate aims were achieved, both in 1815 and in 1945.
      Treacherous allies
      In 1814-1815 it was the case with Britain, which abandoned the Russian ally as soon as the immediate danger (domination of Europe by one continental European power with a strongman at its head) subsided. The other European nations, whose representatives joined both Napoleon's and (less willingly) Hitler's "anti-crusades" against Russia, quickly tried to forget Russia's role in the defeat of their erstwhile leaders and oppressors. Both in the nineteenth and the twentieth century a version about "double oppression" from Russian and the homegrown West European dictators was developed in such countries as Poland or Hungary. This version, sometimes in a travestied and simplified form, is now supported by the "heavy artillery" of the West- and Central European media. The historical science, which finds itself under heavy political influence in Europe and especially the US, is not much more objective than the media. As for Russia's success in fighting the unexpectedly barbarous Europeans on its territory, it was usually ascribed to cold weather and a chain of coincidences - something that not only the Soviet marshals, but even Denis Davydov, a hero of the 1812 campaign, complained about. (Davydov even titled his memoirs "Was it Cold Weather that Destroyed the French Army in 1812?")
      In what ways did this duplicitous character of the anti-Napoleonian alliance translate itself into the works of the Congress of Vienna? On January 1, 1815, when a peace treaty between the USA and Britain was signed, the head of British diplomacy, viscount Robert Castlereagh, immediately started looking for ways to limit Russia's influence in Europe. A secret treaty was signed by the representatives of Britain, Austria and France, which was directed against Russia and which obliged all three parties to provide armies of 150 thousand men each in case of an attack against any of them. This was the early precursor of the policy of Western powers in 1940s, when London, Washington and Paris started plotting against their formal ally even before Hitler was totally defeated. In 1815, Napoleon cracked up not to be yet utterly defeated neither. When Napoleon escaped from the island of Elba and approached Paris in March 1815, the French king Louis XVIII escaped from Paris in such a haste that he left a copy of the secret treaty in his palace. Napoleon, eager to inform Russia on the true nature of its allies, transferred the treaty to the Russian side. An unpleasant conversation between Alexander I and Charles-Maurice Talleyrand (the French foreign minister who represented Louis XVIII at the Congress of Vienna) followed. When Alexander produced the original of the treaty to his French interlocutor, it was the first situation in the career of Talleyrand, when he did not find words to respond. And this counts for something in the case of Talleyrand, a defrocked priest who had served all the French regimes since 1789, a symbol of pragmatic immorality of "progressive" Europe.
      Alexander I played down the situation. According to the version of events published in the academic series "Russia's Foreign Policy" (Moscow, 1960) he threw the document into the fire and said: "We have other problems before us. Napoleon is back. Our alliance has to be stronger than ever now." In this way, a sudden return of Napoleon in 1815 nipped in the bud a nineteenth century variant of the "cold war" between Russia and a coalition of Western powers. Alexander I, who was not an angel from Alexander's Column in St. Petersburg, but still a much better person than vindictive Joseph Stalin, chose to avoid confrontation with the West, despite ample evidence of the latter's treachery. The result was indisputably positive: peace in Europe held out until the Crimean war of 1853-1856, a period equal to the period of the cold war, but without the damaging confrontation and limitations on travel, characteristic of the twentieth century.
      "Progress" versus honor
      In the twentieth century, the dominant view of the epoch that followed the Congress of Vienna was a "progressist" one, with Russia playing the role of "the gendarme of Europe," while the Hungarian and Polish rebellions, with all their contradictions, were depicted in a positive light. Obviously, this was not the way most of the contemporaries viewed this situation. If 20th century historians viewed it in terms of "progress versus reaction," the Russian emperors viewed it in terms of "Christianity against godlessness" or "honor against treachery" (a view most characteristic of Nicholas I). Alexander I viewed himself as a new Agamemnon, who led a present day coalition of modern likes of Achilles and Odysseus against the new impious Troy. Nicholas in his writings resented the fact that "memories of good deeds are forgotten much faster than memories of insults."
      Who were the insulted ones? Of course, Poles, Hungarians and Italians, the underprivileged parties inside the system that formed itself after the Congress of Vienna, deserve historians' respect and sympathy. But some of the methods used by the insurgents from these nations, as well as by Decembrists in Russia, deserve condemnation from a modern point of view. Even some of the Polish generals called the officers who started the rebellion in 1830 "murderers." As for the Decembrists, modern Russian historiography pays more and more attention to the violent component of that movement. Some of their methods would be called terrorist now. And the same can be said about a lot of the nineteenth century European revolutionary movements, so stubbornly opposed by Alexander I and Nicholas I.
      Europe without Russia: self-defeating policy
      Summarizing the foreign policy consequences of Napoleon's defeat by the coalition of European powers led by Russia, one can conclude that they were much less benign for Russia than for the rest of Europe. The Western powers did not start viewing Russia as "one of their own." The anti-Russian coalition that they formed in 1853 revealed that neither Austria nor Britain ever intended to show any gratitude for the "legitimist" exploits of Russia, as Nicholas I expected. For Russia, the disappointment was great, since it paid the heaviest price for the European stabilization, which preceded the Crimean war. The Napoleonic wars were led with much more barbaric cruelty in Russia in 1812, than in the rest of Europe. Obviously, the civilized Europeans in 1812 did not have any qualms about plundering "barbaric" Russians, and did not bother to provide compensations or excuses, as it was the case in Austria and Prussia in preceding and subsequent wars. However, the nineteenth century proved that attempts to exclude Russia from the European politics were counterproductive - for European powers themselves. Russia as the ultimate European conservative (a role traditionally played by our country during the last two centuries, with the relatively short break during the Sturm und Drang period of communist expansionism in 1919-1949) proved to be an indispensable part of the European "concert of powers." The lessening of Russia's role in the aftermath of the Crimean war marked Europe's slow descent to the tragedy of the World War I.     
      (Dmitry Babich is Political analyst, Russian News and Information Agency "RIA Novosti". Previous position - staff writer at Russia Profile magazine and website.)


      Kremlin Fanning Ethnic and Religious Tensions
      By Nikolai Petrov
      The Moscow Times, 04 September 2012

      Last week's murder of a respected spiritual leader in Dagestan, a recent terrorist attack in Kazan and overall tensions in Muslim-dominated regions point to what could become an avalanche of problems. The Kazan attack alone prompted a campaign against suspected adherents of Wahhabism and possible plans for the Federal Security Service to closely monitor Muslims in general. But the bureaucratic zeal of the reformed police force might wreak more havoc than a host of terrorists. Vigilantes may join the fray, escalating the potential for conflict. Dagestani leader Magomedsalam Magomedov has called for the organization of self-defense squads, "teams of young people who are ready to work under the guidance of the Interior Ministry to provide domestic security." The Dagestani Interior Ministry has welcomed the idea. Local authorities have suggested that the groups be composed of Murids, disciples of the late sheik Said Atsayev. Such a move could unleash a low-intensity civil war in Dagestan. This summer, Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachyov suggested organizing armed groups - composed of Cossacks. In fact, his initiative was not the first; other regions have revived the idea of using Cossack units to maintain order. Calls have also recently been made to form "Orthodox squads" in response to vandalized crosses and the desecration of Russian Orthodox churches. The Kremlin, meanwhile, has used the Pussy Riot case as an ideological tool, defending traditional and Russian Orthodox values in a bid to consolidate its conservative electorate. But in doing so, it has polarized society and provoked the radicalization of opposing camps. That polarization is only heightened by the church's increasingly anti-modernist stance. The Dagestan tragedy occurred almost simultaneously with a meeting of the new presidential council for interethnic relations, a blatantly ineffectual and ceremonial body that issues lofty statements about key problems even as the government cuts funding to the few programs intended to address them. And in true Soviet style, the council is not composed of specialists on interethnic relations but of leaders of the largest ethnic minorities and various officials. Thus, as interethnic and inter-religious relations rapidly deteriorate, the authorities lack programs to cope with them, mechanisms to create new programs, and the realization that both are urgently needed. This leaves the police powerless. What's more, the reactionary measures being proposed on the regional level are likely to fan the flames.


      Backdrop of violence: The Caucasus conflict belies Putin's pleas for calm as it spreads to Tatarstan
      By Dan Peleschuk (Moscow News)
      Johnson's Russia List, September 3, 2012

      As President Vladimir Putin arrived in Tatarstan late last month to repeat his recent call for ethnic harmony among Russia's multicultural population, a spate of violent killings spiked throughout the mainly Muslim North Caucasus region, leaving more than a dozen dead in one day and highlighting Russia's continuing struggle with a crippling Islamic insurgency.
      In Dagestan, which has long since overshadowed neighboring Chechnya in its body count, seven people ­ including a leading Sufi cleric ­ were killed in a suicide bombing, while a border guard turned his automatic rifle on seven of his fellow soldiers before himself being killed.
      The bloodshed cast an unsettling background to Putin's Tatarstan visit on Aug. 28, during which he presented the Order of Friendship to Mufti Ildus Faizov and the Order of Courage to the widow of the slain Valiullah Yakupov, two official religious leaders targeted by local Islamic extremists in coordinated attacks in Kazan, the capital, on July 19.
      "Terrorists and militants of all kinds, whatever ideological slogans they hide behind, always act cynically, behind one's back, and have only one aim: to spread fear and mutual hatred," he said.
      But Putin's comments, characteristic of a leader who has long placed a premium on stability, seemed to contradict the stark reality that, despite the official end of the federal counterterrorism operation in Chechnya in April 2009, the violence rages on in the neighboring republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria, among others.
      The Kabardino-Balkarian Interior Ministry said Sunday that an insurgent fighter, killed by security forces in the republic on Saturday night, was carrying a time bomb made of various chemicals mixed in a bucket and connected to a Casio watch.
      "The power of the explosives was estimated to be 15 kilograms of TNT. Specialists believe there is no doubt that a terror attack was being prepared," a ministry press release said. The bomb was defused on the spot, and police also found a machine gun and pistol in the victim's car.
      A low-intensity Islamic insurgency has plagued the volatile North Caucasus region in recent years. Once active in Chechnya, it has spread to the neighboring republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria, among others.
      Background conflict
      "It's a low-intensity conflict, and it's going to keep dragging on and on," said Simon Saradzhyan, a terrorism expert at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
      While experts say that the Islamist insurgency, bound roughly by the self-proclaimed Caucasus Emirate under Chechen warlord Doku Umarov, has been weakened since Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's consolidation of power, they also note that its low-level persistence has become almost a given in the area.
      "They haven't been able to mount spectacular attacks, such as raids on entire cities, but they do manage to organize effective bombings in the North Caucasus and outside the North Caucasus now and then, to remind their supporters, themselves and the authorities that they can still do this," Saradzhyan said.
      According to Kavkazky Uzel, a Russian news outlet focusing on the North Caucasus, 118 people fell victim to armed conflict in July alone, 78 of whom were killed. Dagestan ranked the bloodiest, with 54 deaths, while Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria ranked second and third, with 10 and nine killed, respectively.
      Chechnya had only four deaths, but experienced a relatively rare suicide bombing earlier this month in Grozny, the republic's capital, in which at least one suicide bomber killed three Russian soldiers and injured three other people.
      Perhaps more disconcerting, however, is the apparent recent spread of radical Islam, or Salafism, even beyond its conventional borders in the North Caucasus. The July attack in Kazan that killed Yakupov and injured Faizov was a frightening indication of its growing appeal among the republic's youth, which some experts say have been wooed by the North Caucasus movement's brazenness and the perceived co-option of moderate Islam by the regional authorities.
      'Religious protest'
      Alexei Malashenko, an Islam expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, says the past several years have seen an "accumulation of religious protest," in which an increasing number of people have turned to radicalism to spite the authorities.
      "The confrontation [in Tatarstan] between those who share Islamic traditionalism and something else ­ a 'new' Islam, such as Salafism ­ is very, very explosive, like we see in the Caucasus and everywhere else," he said.
      Malashenko also notes that the spread of fundamentalist Islam from the Caucasus and Central Asia, which plays host to such groups as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Hizb ut-Tahrir, adds to the "internationalization" of the trend.
      This much became evident early last month, when two Chechen members of al-Qaeda, who are believed to be among the senior leadership of the organization in Europe, were charged by a Spanish judge with plotting a terrorist attack. The two men, Eldar Magomedov and Ankari Adamov, were arrested Aug. 1 in Spain, attempting to cross the French border.
      Loose connections
      Some experts, however, are careful to draw a line between the homegrown North Caucasian insurgency and Russian fundamentalists operating abroad. According to Mark Galeotti, a Russian security expert and clinical professor at New York University, the two operations are largely distinct from one another.
      "This is what happened to al-Qaeda, generally ­ what once upon a time was a coordinated movement has been shattered," he said. "It has now become an ideology of loosely connected, but essentially autonomous, individuals and cells," bound to a certain degree by shared beliefs, resources and possibly clan connections.
      However, Galeotti noted, whether at home or abroad, Chechens remain among the most popular candidates for the "global jihad."
      "There are a lot of Chechens who feel particularly ignored, isolated, ruthless, and who therefore are more susceptible to the ideology of jihad, and to the idea that it's worth giving everything up to strike a blow to bring some kind of real change," he said.


      Russia's fractured society deepens Putin's woes
      By Timothy Heritage
      Reuters, September 4, 2012

      MOSCOW (Reuters) - Supporters of the punk band Pussy Riot stand accused of being traitors and Satanists bent on destroying Russia. Their ultra-religious foes are for their part depicted as extremists in the pay of corrupt politicians. A debate over whether three of the group's members should have been jailed for dancing to a profane "punk prayer" in a Russian Orthodox Church has deepened a split in society to a degree rarely seen since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. But there is one sentiment that is shared by people on all sides - disappointment with President Vladimir Putin. Putin is not about to fall. But a recent poll showed his popularity had slipped 12 percentage points since he returned to the presidency in May. The former KGB spy, whose appeal once embraced the vast majority, is showing signs of concern. Ivan Ostrakovsky, the leader of a religious group called Svyataya Rus (Holy Russia), has started organising vigilante patrols at night in Moscow because he fears the state cannot protect Russian Orthodox property or the values he stands for. "Putin is a regular man holding the steering wheel of the presidency. There is no democracy in our country, just a wild satanism," he said under the golden domes of Moscow's Church of Christ the Saviour before going in<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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