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Bulletin 7:3 (2013)

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 7, No. 3(191), 11 March 2013 Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta,
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 10, 2013
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 7, No. 3(191), 11 March 2013
      Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta, Vildane Oezkan & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 1 - 15 February 2013

      [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 February 2013

      Russia must drop draft bill that would penalize 'homosexual propaganda' - UN experts
      UN News Centre, 1 February 2013

      A group of United Nations experts today called on the Russian parliament to discard a draft bill that would ban 'propaganda of homosexuality among minors,' stressing that the proposed legislation would undermine human rights in the country.
      Russia's State Duma, the lower house of parliament, has already approved the bill, which reportedly makes public events and the dissemination of information on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to minors punishable by fines of up to $16,000.
      "Any restriction on freedom of opinion and expression should be based on reasonable and objective criteria, which is not fulfilled by the draft bill approved during the first reading by the Duma," said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue. "The law could potentially be interpreted very broadly and thereby violate not only the right to freedom of expression but also the prohibition of discrimination."
      The experts warned that the LGBT community has increasingly become the target of sanctions and violence in the country and the draft law would unjustifiably single them out and restrict the activities of those advocating for their rights.
      "The draft legislation could further contribute to the already difficult environment in which these defenders operate, stigmatizing their work and making them the target of acts of intimidation and violence, as has recently happened in Moscow," said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya.
      The draft bill could also hamper the organization of cultural events or dissemination of artistic creation addressing LGBT issues, said the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed.
      In addition, the bill's ambiguous wording of 'homosexual propaganda' may not only penalize those who promote sexual and reproductive health among LGBT people, but also undermine the right of children to access health-related information, and reinforce stigmas and contribute to a discriminatory environment, said Anand Grover, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health.
      The experts stressed that the Government still has time to reverse its decision during the next two readings of the bill at the Duma, and urged parliamentarians to "exercise leadership by scrapping the bill to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia."
      Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


      The Council of Muftis is not allowed building mosques in eight towns of the Moscow Region, though it wants to
      Interfax-Religion, February 1, 2013

      Moscow, February 1, Interfax - Deputy Chairman of the Council of Muftis, head of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Moscow Region Rushan Abbyasov complains that Muslims in the region are not given a chance to build mosques.
      "A question of allotting land for mosques is not settled in some towns of the Moscow Region, for instance, in Podolsk, Kolomna, Balashikha, Pushkino, Narofominsk, Zheleznodorozhny, Lyubertsy," Abbyasov was quoted as saying by the website of the Moscow Region Muftis Council.
      According to him, such a problem persists "for many years."
      Abbyasov says that Muslims passed all required procedures in Elektrostal, but at the stage of receiving a permission for construction "negatively inclined local residents started collecting signatures against building the mosque, despite the fact that public hearings had already been held."
      "We are sure that such protests erase centuries-old interethnic and inter-religious dialogue, good neighboring and contributes to developing xenophobia and chauvinistic moods in the Moscow Region," he said.
      Abbyasov further noted that the Council of Muftis is going to address the governor of the Moscow Region, regional and municipal authorities, the regional Public Chamber and urge them to interfere in the situation.


      Medvedev wants stronger relations between state, church, society
      Interfax-Religion, February 1, 2013

      Moscow, February 1, Interfax - On the fourth anniversary of Patriarch Kirill's enthronement, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wished him health and said he is hoping the relations between the church, the state, and society in Russia will become stronger.
      "A Patriarch's service is a very difficult mission and hope everything will be fine. I wish for the special relationship now established between the Russian Orthodox Church, the state, and the entire society to grow stronger and serve for the good of our Fatherland," Medvedev said after the liturgy in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.
      During the meeting, Patriarch Kirill mentioned the increase in the number of archbishops, adding that 300 archbishops had assisted him during the liturgy, whereas he was elected by only 200 archbishops four years ago. The Patriarch said this is due to the increase in the number of dioceses in the Russian Orthodox Church in the past few years.
      "The increase in the number of bishops, as I understand, reflects an increase in the number of people going to church, which is an objective process," Medvedev said.
      "These people are educated, most of them have secular and spiritual university education and a lot of work experience. We take candidates not only from the capital, but also from among those who, as I say, know how to travel in the tundra and taiga," the patriarch said, referring to the new generation of bishops.


      Putin: Russia will keep memory of Battle of Stalingrad alive
      Interfax, February 1, 2013

      MOSCOW - Attempts to distort the events of World War II, or to blot the Soviet liberator soldiers' heroic feats from our memory, must be resisted, said President Vladimir Putin.
      "We must do all we can to ensure that the memory of the Battle of Stalingrad and the truth about it never dim. It is our duty to resist attempts to distort the events of World war II or to attach political strings to them, brazenly defaming the heroic feats accomplished by those who liberated the world," Putin said at a reception at the Kremlin on Friday celebrating the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad.
      "The truth is that victory in that great battle was accomplished by Soviet military leaders and soldiers. The whole world was amazed by their admirable courage and lasting power," he said.
      "How cynical one must be to forget about their valor and self-sacrifice! We will never allow that to happen again," the Russian president said.
      The Battle of Stalingrad marked a "turning point" in the life of the country and of millions of people, he continued. "The unconquered city was the starting point in our troops' march to Berlin," he said. The victory, won 70 years ago, went down in history as a turning point towards the complete and final defeat of Nazism, he said.
      The reception is being attended by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin, parliamentary faction leaders, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, lawmakers and government officials. The main guests at the reception are more than 200 World War II veterans. Three hundred guests had been invited.


      Georgia Calls Russia's Occupation A Threat To Stability
      By Charles Recknagel
      RFE/RL, February 2, 2013

      Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze says Russia's occupation of her country's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is a threat to regional and European stability.
      Speaking at an international security conference in Munich on February 2, Panjikidze also said Tbilisi regrets that the OSCE was "forced to discontinue its presence in Georgia" and that her government attaches "great importance to the return of the [OSCE] mission."
      She said that Tbilisi is trying, with the assistance of the international community, to convince Moscow that Russia can benefit from peace and stability in its immediate neighborhood.
      She spoke on the second day of the three-day Munich Security Conference.
      Hours earlier, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden had cited treatment of the two breakaway Georgian republics -- whose independence Russia recognized following its brief war with Georgia in 2008 -- among the "real" differences between Moscow and Washington.
      "The United States will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states," Biden said. "We will not recognize any nation having a sphere of influence. It will remain America's view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances."
      The meeting groups some 400 top diplomats and defense officials from the EU, the United States, and Russia in the southern German city.


      NATO: No Backing Down On Missile Shield
      RFE/RL, February 3, 2013

      NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the alliance has no intention of stepping back from its plans to establish a missile-defense system in Europe.
      The United States and NATO say the system -- including sophisticated radar and interceptor missiles -- is aimed at guarding against a potential missile threat from Iran or another nation.
      Russia has strongly opposed the plan, saying the system could be built up to eventually threaten the deterrent power of Russia's nuclear arsenal.
      Rasmussen, speaking to reporters at the Munich Security Conference, said NATO's decision on the system has been made in order to defend the populations of NATO-member countries.
      He noted NATO has invited Russia to cooperate in resolving issues connected to the shield, and urged Moscow to embrace the offer.
      Rasmussen met in Munich with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
      Based on reporting from AP and Reuters


      Putin promises ROC to defend religious feelings of believers
      ITAR-TASS, February 4, 2013

      On Friday, RF President Vladimir Putin met in the Kremlin with the hierarchs of the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The President said that it is necessary to move away from the vulgar understanding of secularism and promised that religious feeling of believers will be defended. The Russian Orthodox Church priests for their part believe that it is not so much the church as the society itself that needs the new law on the protection of religious feelings.
      The authorities and the church in each their speech have demonstrated full solidarity, the Novye Ivzestia daily writes. The Russian Orthodox Church for centuries has supported and unified the Russian people, Putin said. "We must remember that it from the persecution of the Orthodox Church that the destruction of the state began," said the RF President. To back the words that the state will not allow such things to happen in the future he said that the religious feelings of believers should be protected both by the force of public opinion and by the force of law. "Preventing the governmentalisation of church life, we should get away from the vulgar primitive understanding of the secular notion," the head of state said.
      We very much appreciate the opportunity for dialogue between the church and the state, the Patriarch thanked the authorities. "Without interference in the church life, we cooperate with the government where it is needed," the Patriarch said. But, according to Metropolitan Juvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna, as it has turned out, this support is not enough. Isn't the time ripe for equalising in the rights to receive assistance from the state the religious social organisations along with government organisations, asked the Metropolitan.
      Although the issue of the protection of religious feelings was not openly discussed with representatives of the ROC Council of Bishops at the meeting with Putin, ROC representatives nevertheless admitted that this issue is one of the most relevant for the church, the newspaper stated. "The new bill on the protection of the feelings of believers is needed," Bishop Roman of Yakutsk and Lena told the Novye Izvestia newspaper. "But a very careful approach should be taken to this, we should strike a happy medium. Putin has shown respect for Orthodoxy and he has confirmed that he is ready to support our projects."
      The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily writes that the President recalled the "lessons of the dramatic events of the early XX century when the destruction of one country, its sliding into revolutions and upheavals, fratricidal conflicts and war was beginning in many ways with the erosion of spiritual and national foundations, with a real persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional faiths."
      It is clear what the Kremlin means, repeatedly referring to the "erosion of the spiritual foundations" and "the destruction and sliding of the country into revolutions and upheavals." According to the newspaper, first of all the Bolotnaya Square case defendants who are charged with organising mass riots fall into this category.
      The defamation law, which allows to bring people to justice for "insulting religious feelings" that was adopted last summer is targeted against "those who erode." Member of the RF Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC) journalist Yelena Masyuk at the first meeting of the current HRC told Putin said that anyone can be put to trial under the new article of the RF Criminal Code.
      The place of the ROC in society is determined not at all by the degree of its protection from this society by the state, but by the impeccable reputation of its clergy, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta emphasises. And this reputation is based primarily on moral postulates, of which non-acquisitiveness and mercy have not the least importance. The newspaper recalls that in a speech at the meeting of the ROC Council of Bishops Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill stated that "leniency to the Pussy Riot band members without their repentance can generate in the society a feeling of permissiveness."


      Bill banning gay propaganda among minors meets European standards - parliamentarian
      Interfax-Religion, February 4, 2013

      Moscow - The criticism by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of the bill banning the propaganda of homosexuality among children passed by the State Duma in the first reading is ungrounded, Yelena Mizulina, the head of the State Duma committee on family, women and children, said in an interview published in the Friday issue of Izvestiya.
      "Let him [Westerwelle] also criticize the European Court of Human Rights. Its decision clearly states that the national authorities have a right to impose restrictions protecting children's rights to protection from excessive influence of adults' sexual preferences," Mizulina said.
      Mizulina said the national authorities should take into account society's attitude toward homosexual behavior.
      "Russian society is intolerant of it. All polls show that 95% want restrictions," she said.
      Mizulina said the new law will not restrict children's right to independently look for information and will not ban sexual minorities from dressing as they please.
      "The ban only applies to enticing interest in homosexual behavior during entertainment events in the presence of children. The document will restrict actions aimed at justifying, substantiating, and enticing such interest. The ban will not affect anything that occurs in places inaccessible to children," Mizulina said.
      Mizulina believes people who oppose the bill "do not take into account the official statistics of sexual violence against children."
      German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told Russian Ambassador in Berlin Vladimir Grinin the Russian bill banning the propaganda of homosexuality among minors does not meet the international legal standards and may hurt the relations between Russia and Europe.


      Same-sex couples cannot adopt Russian children
      Interfax-Religion, February 5, 2013

      Moscow - Same-sex couples are prohibited to adopt Russian orphans, Presidential Children's Rights Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said in an interview published by Rossiyskaya Gazeta on Tuesday.
      "Our fundamental laws - the Constitution and the Family Code - have already declared that position. They define a marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Nothing else. Period," Astakhov said.
      There have been public protests in countries pondering same-sex marriage laws, such as France, the ombudsman said. Many people think they need a law banning homosexuality propaganda, just like Russia has endorsed, he said.
      "They say that the French Education Ministry is introducing a standard of homosexual family propaganda in textbooks. Children are told that a family is not just the papa and the mama; it could be the papa and the papa or the mama and the mama," Astakhov said.
      It is the question of humanitarian norms, which are being gradually transformed into international laws, the ombudsman said.
      "Take the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It says the child has the right to the papa and the mama. The adults do not have the mandatory right to have a child. But the child has the right to the mama and the papa. And it is being proposed to us to change the model of this world, this relationship," the children's rights ombudsman said.


      Russia denies bullying Ukraine into its customs union
      EurActiv, 05 February 2013 | Updated: 06 February 2013

      Moscow, which recently slammed Kyiv with a huge gas bill, said Monday (4 February) that an arrangement could be found. A Russian diplomat explained that the deal would not necessarily require Ukraine to join Moscow's proposed Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan.
      A payment dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas supply and transit left millions of East Europeans without heating in the first three weeks of 2009.
      A solution to the gas crisis was later found between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart at that time, Yulia Tymoshenko.
      Under the present Ukrainian leadership, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison over allegations that she abused her office in relation to a gas deal signed with Russia in 2009. This development has been a setback for the EU-Ukrainian relations.
      Ukraine is trying to bring down the price it pays for Russian gas. On 20 December, Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Mykola Azarov failed to achieve a breakthrough in talks in which Russia links the issue of price reduction to a stake in Ukraine's gas pipeline network.
      According to statements by a high-ranking Russian diplomat, Moscow does not link the lowering of gas prices to Ukraine with the country's customs union membership.
      The European Commission has warned Ukraine that its possible customs union agreement with Russia is incompatible with the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) it wants to sign with the EU.
      Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan agreed in June 2009 to form a customs bloc and seek joint accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The move was opposed by the European Union and the United States, as it was expected to delay Russia's own WTO bid. Russia joined the WTO last summer, after a 19-year long wait.
      Ukrainian media quoted the Russian ambassador to Kyiv, Mikhail Zurabov, saying that the disagreement over a $7-billion (€5.2-billion) bill which Russia recently presented to Ukraine won't need to go to court. The bill was presented as part of a 'take-or-pay' clause according to which Ukraine has to pay even if it hasn't imported the gas.
      Zurabov said that he expected all problems to be settled in March when Russia President Vladimir Putin is due to meet his Ukraine counterpart, Viktor Yanukovich.
      "The Russian and Ukrainian authorities have found approaches which would allow already in the near future a reduction of gas prices to be made, that is, a basic revision of the contract. And I must say: the agreements have been reached outside of the context of Ukraine's accession to the Customs Union," the Russian diplomat said.
      He added: "Of course, Ukraine's participation in the Customs Union will reduce the cost of fuel to the level of the Customs Union. However, this issue was not discussed ," the diplomat said.
      Experts quoted by the Ukrainian side see the news as progress in the talks, although the deal still needs to be concluded at the highest level.
      The exact date of a meeting between Putin and Yanukovich is not yet known. Last December, the two presidents were due to meet just ahead of the EU-Russia summit on 18 December, but the talks were postponed at the last minute.
      According to sources quoted by the daily Izvestia in Ukraine, the meeting between Putin and Yanukovich is likely to take place in March, after the EU-Ukraine summit on 25 February.
      Political analysts are quoted as saying that the upcoming meeting would not only decide on a discount for Ukraine, but also the establishment of a bilateral consortium to manage the Ukrainian gas transportation system, the assets of which would be equally shared between Ukraine's Naftogaz and Russia's Gazprom.
      Russia has for a long time sought a deal that would grant Gazprom property over the pipelines carrying Russian through Ukraine in exchange for cheaper prices to Kyiv.
      "On the basis of this new company a consortium will be set up. This will be signed together with the gas discount," analyst Vadim Karasev is quoted as saying.


      Russian population continues to fall
      The Moscow News, February 6, 2013

      The mortality rate in Russia exceeded the birth rate by more than 2,500 people last year contrary to expectations, the press office of the Labor and Social Security Ministry said on Wednesday. Under the government demographic policy to 2025, the country's population was expected to rise by 100,000 people in 2012 to 143 million people, a copy of the document on the ministry's website showed. In the 12 months of 2012, 1.896 million babies were born in Russia, which is 5.7 percent more than in the previous year and the highest number since 1990, it said. But the death rate in 2012 was 1.898 million, although it was a 1.4 percent decline from 2011. The ministry had recorded a natural growth of the population of 4,500 people in the first 11 months and said it expected an increase in the numbers for the full year.


      HRW report on Russia's human rights record biased - Naryshkin
      JRL, February 7, 2013

      LUXEMBOURG. Feb 5 (Interfax) - State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin said Human Rights Watch is a politically-biased organization.
      "Human Rights Watch has long entered Russia on the list of countries with an inferior human rights record," Naryshkin told reporters in Luxembourg, when asked to comment on the HRW's most recent report.
      The HRW's activities were discussed in the most general context, he said, speaking about a discussion at the Luxembourg parliament, adding that the report gives a "politically-biased and prescribed opinion of Russia."
      "All of us should gradually leave the memories of the Cold War alone and rid ourselves of the philosophical and psychological aspects of that war," he said.
      Elaborating on human rights abuses, Naryshkin said that Russia is concerned about the situation in some countries in Europe and Asia, first of all in the Baltic republics. "Hundreds of thousands of citizens in Latvia are deprived of fundamental rights, first of all the right to vote," Naryshkin said.
      Naryshkin proposed that the observance of human rights be better addressed at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which is to make decisions "on the most flagrant instances of human rights abuses."
      The Russian parliament "strongly advocates respect for human rights," he said.
      Commenting on the criticism of some bills passed in the State Duma, including the bill on foreign agents and on tighter requirements for organizers of mass rallies, he remarked that these bills should not be judged from media reports. "The bills you are talking about should be read first. You will get a clear idea of them, which is a lot better than listening to organizations with a dubious reputation, or non-experts," Naryshkin said.
      Naryshkin said he had urged Luxembourg lawmakers to deal more scrupulously with laws. "Whenever you want to find out whether a book or a theater production is good or bad, you must read the book first, or go to the theater," he said.


      Law on "foreign agent" NGOs does not work, has "large psychological effect" - Fedotov
      Johnson's Russia List, February 7 2013

      MOSCOW. Feb 6 (Interfax) - The law on "foreign agent" NGOs has not had a legal effect as yet, Presidential Human Rights Council Chairman Mikhail Fedotov told a press conference at Interfax. "The law in its current form has had a psychological rather than legal effect," he noted. Not a single organization has been registered as a foreign agent, Fedotov said. "An organization from Chuvashia had tried to get registered, but the Justice Ministry checked it and decided that the organization was not a foreign agent because it was not engaged in politics. Hence, it was denied registration as a foreign agent," Fedotov said. The law has been developed poorly, he said. "The Council proposed amendments; not all of them were accepted and endorsed but some were added to the law," Fedotov said.


      Pussy Riot punk group activists forwarded a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights
      ITAR-TASS, February 7, 2013

      The activists of the Pussy Riot punk group, convicted for an action at the Christ the Savior Church, said in a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights that the Russian government was violating their rights to the freedom of expression, fair trial and decent treatment.
      The activists sent a 355-page petition to the ECHR complaining about Russian justice, the Novye Izvestia writes. The young women's lawyers - Ionko Grozev and Irina Khrunova - helped their clients to have the complaint sent to the right address. In their opinion, when handing down the verdict, Moscow's Khamovniki court violated several articles of the Russian Constitution: on the freedom of expression, on the right to freedom and personal security, the ban on tortures and the right to fair trial. Other claims concerned the justifiability of the verdict and prison conditions.
      The defendant will be the Russian government, which was accused of violating the young woman's rights to the freedom of expression, fair trial and decent treatment.
      The complaint by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich about Russia comprises 55 pages, and another 300 pages contain additional materials, the newspaper Kommersant reports.
      The lawyers affirm that viewing the punk group's action at the Church as an attempt to hurt the believers' feelings /this argument by the prosecutors made groundwork for the verdict/ is incorrect, because in actual fact, it was an artistic performance, which cannot be judged outside of the context of the political situation in Russia.
      The authors of the complaint remind that September 24, 2011 was the staring point in the establishment of Pussy Rot, when President Dmitry Medvedev stated he would not run for president for the sake of Vladimir Putin. Then on February 1, 2012, Patriarch Kirill publicly supported presidential candidate Vladimir Putin at the Bishops' Council, which made the Pussy Riot activists indignant. By that time, they had gained a rich experience in political performances.
      In the lawyers' opinion, the Russian authorities repeatedly violated the right to fair trial during the review of the Pussy Riot case. For example, the court did not question a single expert from among those who had examined the punk prayer trailer at the prosecutor's order.
      Keeping the defendants in a bulletproof glass cage during the court hearings was another violation of the European convention, the lawyers said. For example, in the case Mikhail Khodorkovsky vs Russia, the former Yukos CEO also called this format humiliating and finally proved his cause. The Convention was also violated by the conditions in which the defendants were kept, according to the lawyers.
      They have not named the sum of compensation yet. "It's far more important that the court acknowledge our innocence and find the Russian authorities guilty of violating human rights. I believe we have fair chances because the whole Europe was watching out trial," Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich told the Kommersant.
      Head of the legal service of the Moscow Patriarch Office Ksenia Chernega doubts that the ECHR will grant Pussy Riot's complaint. "They were arraigned not for remarks but for hooliganism. They committed acts of hooliganism. The freedom of expression is not the absolute right and can be restricted to protect certain values. If their statements insulted a group of persons they should suffer punishment," Chernega told the newspaper.
      The Kommersant underlined that the European court had shown special interest in the punk group's case, although Strasbourg receives thousands of complaints from Russians wishing to sue the government, which makes Russia leader by the number of lodged complaints. Lawyer Irina Khrunova, who sent to Strasbourg a preliminary complaint on behalf of the punk group activists, received a letter requesting her to submit additional documents as soon as possible, which shows the court's considerable interests in the soonest review of the Pussy Riot case.


      The Arc of the Moral Universe and Russia
      by Kevin Sullivan
      Real Clear World, February 07, 2013

      Following the passage in recent days of two bills embracing full marriage equality in Britain and France, Andrew Sullivan reflects on the remarkable progress he has witnessed on gay rights in Great Britain:
      In the crazed frenzy of this week's transition, I realized last night that something truly profound had just happened. The country I grew up in " where I never heard the word homosexuality in my home and barely in the culture, except in hushes and shudders " is now on the brink of bringing actual equality and dignity to all its gay citizens. I remember touring Britain with "Virtually Normal" almost two decades ago and finding both Tories and lefties uncomprehending, if not actively hostile. The culture has changed beyond recognition. And undoutbtedly, clearly, unequivocally, for the better. And the argument was made even stronger by the fact that there are over a dozen openly gay Conservative members of parliament " an indication of how conservatism as a governing philosophy can and must include everyone in its ranks, or die a deserved and bigoted death.
      Indeed, Andrew believes these recent steps may in fact signal a certain kind of inevitability in the Western world on marriage equality and gay rights. One problem: Russia:
      Russia's State Duma is preparing a bill that will ban "homosexual propaganda," which even supporters admit will effectively criminalize almost any overt public expression of gay sexual identity.
      The public battle over the draft law has highlighted two different visions of Russian "democracy" and pitted them against each other.
      Supporters of the bill, which is strongly backed by the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, argue that Russia is a non-Western and "conservative" democracy that defends traditional values and shields the feelings of the majority from the aggressive encroachments of pushy minorities. They say they're not out to persecute gay people, but that they must not be allowed to bring their sexual orientation into the open, where it may influence the attitudes of minors and offend the beliefs of most Russians.
      Russian political scientist Sergei Markov, a proponent of LGBT "private zones" in the country, reveals the Kremlin's thinking on this:
      The idea that Russia is somehow more backward than the West is a typical error based on the linear understanding of progress that dominated in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, that notion also served as the basis for the initial, fairly primitive concepts of modernization and democratization in the West. According to this concept of linear progress, all countries are on the same path, and Russia is several decades behind Europe and the U.S. Russia's legislation on LGBT propaganda only reinforce that gap. But modern humanitarian science sees society as multifaceted and allows for different approaches to a single problem. Only time will tell which solution to the issue of minority and majority rights is more effective and humane: Russia's or the West's.
      Much like everything else, the Kremlin appears to be looking at this, er, "problem" through a geopolitical lens.


      Church must not get involved in politics - poll
      Interfax, February 8, 2013

      MOSCOW - Some 51% of the respondents polled by the Public Opinion Foundation say the clergy's involvement in politics is impermissible.
      The opinion was mostly expressed by Muscovites (65%), St. Petersburg residents (56%), people with a monthly income higher than 20,000 rubles and managers (58%).
      A quarter of Russians believe that clerics may speak up on political subjects but should take no part in politics. The majority of such respondents are St. Petersburg residents (30%), people ages 18 to 30, specialists and people with a higher education (27%).
      Eleven percent welcome the church's engagement in the political life of the country. They do not mind if clerics become deputies, mayors or governors.
      These people have monthly incomes less than 4,000 rubles, villagers and the unemployed (14%). Six percent of Muscovites and St. Petersburg residents approved of the political activity of the church.
      Twelve percent of Russians are hesitant about the church's role in politics.


      Political fight should be legal, extremism should be stopped categorically - Putin
      ITAR-TASS, February 8, 2013

      MOSCOW - Political fight should be organised in the framework of the law, but extremism should be stopped categorically, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said on Friday during a collegium meeting at the Interior Ministry.
      "I require from you most categorical suppression of extremism organisations, immediate reaction to any extremism be it coming from fans, nationalistic or radical opposing groups," he told the meeting participants.
      Putin said that Russia "has been forming gradually conditions for active political activities."
      "Honest political competition is an attribute of the country and society's development, but political fighting, public discussions may be only in the framework of the legislation and the Constitution, without breaching those, without undermining the bases of the state and society," the president said.
      The president stressed that the state should guarantee rights and freedoms for all citizens.
      "Thus, I am repeating - not a single act extremism should escape punishment," Putin said.


      Support For Western Style Democracy Falling In Russia - Poll
      Johnson's Russia List, February 9, 2013

      The number of supporters of the Soviet political system among Russians is growing, and the number of supporters of Western-style democracies is falling, Russian RIA Novosti news agency reported on 8 February, quoting an opinion poll carried out by Levada Centre.
      According to political analysts, an increase in the number of supporters of the Soviet model comes amid reform of the current political system, which is no longer clear to some citizens, and in some aspects is considered to be inferior to the Soviet one. However, experts believe that the results of the survey reflect a fluctuation of public opinion, so it is too early to draw far-reaching conclusions.
      According to the poll, the number of supporters of the pre-90s political system has increased by 7 per cent compared to 2012. Today, 36 per cent of Russians believe the Soviet system was the best, and in 2012 this view was held by 29 per cent. The present political system is supported by 17 per cent, whereas in 2012 it was supported by 20 per cent. The number of supporters of Western democracies has also dropped from 29 per cent in 2012 to today's 22 per cent.
      More than half of respondents, 51 per cent, believe that an economic model based on state planning and distribution is better (49 per cent said so in 2012). An economic system based on private property and market relations is supported by 29 per cent (36 per cent in 2012).
      The poll was conducted among 1,600 people in 130 towns and villages in 45 Russian regions on 18-21 January
      Situational fluctuations
      Support for the Soviet political system is growing against the background of the current reform of the Russian political system, director of the Centre of the Political Environment in Russia Aleksey Zudin told RIA Novosti.
      "The Russian political system is undergoing reform, and it is no longer clear to people, at least some of them. Uncertainty is growing, which scares some people. They feel the need for something familiar and stable … This is one of the reasons why the proportion of supporters of the Soviet system is slightly up," Zudin said.
      However, he said it was too early to make far-reaching conclusions on the basis of the opinion poll. "These are situational fluctuations," he said.
      The Soviet political system had several advantages over the present one, president of the National Strategy Institute Mikhail Remizov said.
      "Maybe this is due to the fact that a substantial proportion of people have a feeling that we are going back to square one on some issues, to the Soviet model, but to a deficient version," the analyst said.
      According to Remizov, people appreciate another feature of the Soviet system, which is not working well currently, - feedback. Besides, compared to the Soviet times, the management system is closed to new staff.
      "And what is more important is that the Soviet system was rather open, not in terms of transparency, but in the sense of openness to new staff, vertical and horizontal mobility. Today, in general, the management system of the ruling class is much more impenetrable than during the Soviet period," he said.
      False alternative
      Commenting on the preferred economic system, Remizov pointed out that the alternative proposed by sociologists was artificial, since there is no contradiction between an economy based on private property and government planning.
      "The pollsters created a false alternative, offering people a choice between a market economy and state planning… The results reflect public stereotypes, but they cannot be regarded as an appropriate and significant choice," he said.
      However, he believes that a 7-per-cent drop in support for market economy is a significant figure. "In my opinion, this is people's reaction to the Russian economy's slowdown, and news that the global economy is either going through a crisis, or is in a pre-crisis state. I think that the decline in verbal support for a pure market system is connected with these circumstances," Zudin added.


      Russia needs to promote its positive image abroad - Putin
      Johnson's Russia List, 11 February 2013

      NOVO-OGARYOVO. Feb 11 (Interfax) - President Vladimir Putin has emphasized the need for "soft force" mechanisms in Russian Foreign Ministry operations. "Obviously 'classic' diplomacy is if not particularly out of date then seriously transformed. You and your colleagues have to deal with the economy developing business relations supporting various economic projects and opening new promising markets " Putin told Russian Foreign Ministry staff members decorated with state awards on Monday. There are also energy and food security climate change and science and technology cooperation the president said. The area of diplomats covers cultural and humanitarian relations multi-dimensional interaction with civil society and support for compatriots and Russian citizens who find themselves in a difficult situation abroad the head of state said. "The correct use of "soft force" mechanisms is a priority such as a stronger position for the Russian language promotion of Russia's positive image abroad and ability of organic integration into global information flows " Putin said. "I would like to emphasize that turbulent and dynamic global affairs compel the foreign political service to be ahead of time not just to act rapidly " Putin said. He stressed the need for continuation of the course towards stability and predictability in international relations and promotion of common and indivisible security. "We need to carry on our active work towards peace settlement of conflicts the number of which is growing instead of lessening to our regret and which have a negative effect on the global situation " Putin said. It is important to ensure the supremacy of international laws and the truly central role of the United Nations the president said. These principled approaches will be linked with Russian chairmanship at leading international forums in the next few years Putin said. "Bearing in mind the successful hosting of the APEC Vladivostok summit it is necessary to organize the events of the G20 the G8 BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with equal attention " Putin said.


      Russia preparing symmetrical answer on 'Schneerson Library' ruling - newspaper
      Johnson's Russia List, February 11 2013

      MOSCOW. Feb 8 (Interfax) - The Russian Foreign Ministry has recommended that the Culture Ministry and the Russian State Library go to court to claim a fine imposed on the U.S. Library of Congress for holding seven books lent to it in 1994 from the so-called Schneerson Library, i.e. a collection of tens of thousands of old Judaic books and documents, Kommersant reported on Friday. "The algorithm will be roughly this: the Russian State Library, to which the books belong, will file a lawsuit with a court on Russian territory to make the users return the literature and pay a fine. If a court grants the suit and the borrowers fail to return the books and pay the penalties, Russia may demand seizing U.S. government property not protected by immunity as an enforcement measure," the newspaper says. Thus, Russia's response will be virtually symmetrical to the U.S. steps. A Washington-based court earlier imposed a fine of $50,000 a day on Russia for refusing to transfer the Schneerson collection to Agudas Chasidei Chabad, a New York-based Hasidic organization, Kommersant said. Moreover, the size of the fine claimed by Russia may eventually be larger than the U.S. one, it said. Russian State Library Deputy Director Alexander Samarin explained to Kommersant that seven books from the Schneerson collection were passed temporarily to the Library of Congress in 1994 through the international interlibrary exchange system. Having received the books from Moscow, the Library of Congress passed it to the Agudas Chasidei Chabad library. The United States later asked Russia to extend the lending period, and the Russian State Library issued extension permissions at the Culture Ministry's sanction in 1995 and 1996. "In 2000, members of the Hasidic community proposed to us through the U.S. Embassy in Russia that these books be exchanged for others and sent us the list of books for replacement, but we could not agree to this. This would not have been quite appropriate, and besides, the books offered were of lower value," he said. "Responsibility for the failure to return the books from the Schneerson collection rests with the Library of Congress," as the books were formally lent to it, and the Russian State Library has the documents confirming this, Samarin said. In the meantime, the United States hopes the conflict will somehow be settled. Joseph Kruzich, the press attache of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, told Kommersant that, in explaining its official position on the Hasidic movement's suit to the court, the U.S. government said it did not consider sanctions against a foreign state appropriate in this particular instance and therefore disagreed with the court's ruling. Kruzich said, however, that the U.S. authorities have long supported Chabad's right to own the Schneerson collection. Nevertheless, he went on to say, Department of State officials said both orally and in writing that they believed the imposition of a fine on Russia was not an example of appropriate application of the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Speaking at a press conference summing up 2012 outcomes, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the U.S. court's ruling concerning the Schneerson Library outrageous and said it would not be left unanswered. A U.S. district court in Washington ruled on January 16, 2013, to oblige Russia to pay $50,000 a day as a fine until the Schneerson collection is returned to Chabad-Lubavitch based on a 2010 court order. The judge issued this ruling even despite the fact that the U.S. Justice Department urged him "not to issue the civil contempt fines. The department argued that fines won't help resolve the dispute, would be counterproductive, and would hurt U.S. foreign policy interests," the Wall Street Journal reported.


      Zhirinovsky calls for limits on smoking, licenses for sex
      by Aleksandras Budrys
      The Moscow Times, February 12, 2013

      The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Duma vice speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said the future law on tobacco smoking, which the lower parliament chamber is to discuss on Tuesday in its third and final reading, should be much tougher, adding that excessive eating and sex should also be restricted.
      "We need a different formula: smoking is to be banned everywhere but in your own car if you close all the windows and stay there alone as well as in your own apartment if there is nobody else there. Shut all the windows and get yourself poisoned," Zhirinovsky said during a live interview with Business FM radio.
      The bill proposes to ban smoking in government buildings, schools and universities, hospitals, stadiums, restaurants, trains and railway stations and next to metro stations.
      "We need eating restrictions. Our people are overfed and too fat. Sex should also be restricted to one time per quarter through issuing licenses, quotas or coupons," Zhirinovsky added. "People have too much sex, they eat, smoke and drink too much and die 20 years earlier. Everywhere - in Europe, America or Japan - they live longer. Why should we perish?"


      Lavrov Says U.S. Should Learn to Respect Russia
      The St. Petersburg Times, Issue #1746, February 13, 2013

      MOSCOW - The U.S. needs to conduct its affairs based on "mutual respect," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Feb. 7.
      "The U.S. will not change overnight. They must get used to the fact that affairs can only be conducted on the basis of equality, a balance of interests and mutual respect," Lavrov said during an interview set to air the next day on Rossia-2 television.
      "We may no longer see arrogant actions that directly contradict Russia's interests, those of our neighbors and those of other parts of the world. But this does not mean that the [Obama] administration has stopped trying to advance its own interests in Central Asia, the Caucasus and even around Russia. This does not mean that the new administration - although it's not really new, it's more like the 'old new' - is abandoning its missile defense plans," he said, Interfax reported. "The tone and style of negotiation and dialogue have changed under Barack Obama. This is always a plus. … The practical impact of these conversations has also changed," he said. "They [the Americans] are physically not able to solve any problems, but remain the largest and most powerful military, economic and financial power."
      Speaking about Afghanistan, Lavrov said that even as a coalition the U.S. can do little.
      "The threat of terrorism is still there, and the drug threat has increased. They cannot solve the problems related to the spread of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, drug-trafficking and organized crimes," Lavrov said.


      Zenit free to sign black players - coach
      The Moscow News, February 13, 2013

      Zenit St. Petersburg's manager Luciano Spalletti denied Wednesday that racist fans prevent him from signing black players.
      The Russian champions are the only major team in the country never to have signed a player from Africa, and the issue was thrust into the spotlight in December when the Landscrona fan group published a manifesto demanding a ban on black and gay players.
      "I have absolutely no limits on signing players and the club has never put anything like that in place," Spalletti said, stressing that the team already contained players of mixed-race heritage.
      "We've signed players like Hulk, Bruno Alves and [Axel] Witsel, and I don't know what category you want to put them in, we don't have any problems like that."
      Former Zenit manager Dick Advocaat once said the team's fans had stopped him signing black players.
      But the Landscrona group are wrong and Zenit's public image as a racist club is undeserved, the Italian added.
      "The opinion of the group of fans who published this documents is wrong," he said. "Zenit is a team that's open to all. It's the absolute contradiction of what people say about us
      Zenit host Liverpool on Thursday in the last 32 of the Europa League. Liverpool will warn their players they may face racist abuse at the game, managing director Ian Ayre has said.
      "We do plan to speak to the players about it," he said on the team website, and suggested Liverpool would not encourage players to leave the pitch if racially abused, but rather to consult the referee.
      "The referee would be at the forefront of that if there's something on the pitch. Anything that happens off the pitch, then we'll work very closely with the authorities," he said.
      Liverpool have written to Zenit and UEFA expressing their concerns, Ayre added.


      Russian diplomat rings alarm bells over child adopted by U.S. lesbians
      Interfax-Religion, February 14, 2013

      Moscow, February 14, Interfax - The Russian Foreign Ministry's human rights commissioner has expressed anxiety over a Russian child who was adopted in 2007 by two American lesbians whose relationship fell apart two years later.
      "Here's one more immoral trick performed by Americans: in 2007, two lesbians from the U.S. deceived a court in the Russian Federation in order to adopt a Russian child," Konstantin Dolgov tweeted.
      "In 2009, their 'same-sex marriage' fell apart, and the child became the source of 'family' rows between the two lesbians. An American court has deliberately 'classified' information on that litigation in what appears to be one more attempt to cover up adoptive parents who have messed up. That strange family may have inflicted psychological damage on the child. It's an objective need to get him examined," Dolgov said.
      "We demand that U.S. authorities take this matter under their special control and ensure access to the child for Russian consuls," he said.


      UN to Review Russian Federation's Report on Discrimination in the Country, with Alternative Report by NGOs including Sova Center
      SOVA, February 14, 2013

      On February 12, 2013, at the 82nd Session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee held an interactive dialogue with non-governmental organizations about the situation in the Russian Federation. Representatives of ADC Memorial, Sova Center, the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) who had compiled a non-government report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Russia took part in the discussion.
      Representatives of non-governmental organizations in the Russian Federation raised a number of issues concerning discriminatory practices in the country, including the lack of definition of discrimination in Russian legislation, racial discrimination against migrant workers from Central Asia, the poor housing conditions of Roma persons, and the violation of indigenous peoples' rights.
      Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation said that on the whole, the situation was much better than in previous years. Incidents of vandalism, football hooliganism and hatred against religious leaders and minority groups had indeed been reported but in certain cases those were used by politicians and other groups to incite racial tension.
      Russian Association of Indigenous People of the North, Siberia and Far East (RAIPON) spoke on the reduction of the access of indigenous peoples to traditional activities such as fishing and hunting as one of the major problems.
      The Russian Federation's official report and reports by other NGOs are available for download on the 82nd Session's web page.
      Discrimination against visual minorities, Roma, migrants and indigenous peoples: Russia's record before the United Nations // FIDH. 2013. February.
      Implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by the Russian Federation. Alternative Report // United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). 2013. February.
      Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 82nd Session (11 February to 1 March 2013)


      Post-Soviet Integration is Unstoppable - Putin
      RIA Novosti, February 14, 2013

      MOSCOW, February 14 (RIA Novosti) - Nothing can stop or slow down the reintegration of the post-Soviet space, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
      "We've heard some recent nervous and outspoken remarks regarding integration in the post-Soviet space. Let's put them down to the emotional rhetoric of these politicians," Putin said at a meeting of FSB (Federal Security Service) officers.
      "Close integration is an intrinsic global process," he said, adding Russia could face attempts to stop work toward integration.
      "Different forms of pressure, including mechanisms of so-called 'soft power' may be used here," the president said calling for closer contacts with Belarus, Kazakhstan and other integration partners.
      "Any direct or indirect interference in our domestic matters, any forms of pressure on Russia, our allies and partners is intolerable," Putin said.
      Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia have since January 1, 2012, been part of a Common Economic Space (EEP), or Customs Union. The union allows free movement of capital, goods and services across the three states' national borders. Kazakhstan's Central Asian neighbor Kyrgyzstan has applied to join.
      Russia views this grouping as a precursor to a broader Eurasian Economic Union, and has even touted membership to Ukraine and Moldova, although Kiev has long harbored ambitions of moving closer to the EU.
      In December 2012, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Russia's post-Soviet integration initiative, in an address to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
      "It's going to be called a Customs Union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that. But let's make no mistake about it," Clinton said, branding the move as "re-Sovietization."
      Putin shortly afterwards dismissed her comments as "utter nonsense."
      Putin on Thursday also criticized the attempts of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) financed from abroad to speak on behalf of Russian society.
      "No one has the monopoly or right to speak on behalf of Russian society as a whole, most of all those structures governed and financed from abroad. We have outlined a precise system for NGO work in Russia," Putin said referring to a controversial NGO law which came into force in November.
      That law, obliging Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) financed from abroad and involved in political activity to register as "foreign agents," has been criticized by Russian human rights organizations. They claim it is just one of a slew of Kremlin-backed laws aimed at suppressing opposition to Putin's rule.
      Kremlin officials have repeatedly claimed Washington is using NGOs in Russia as a cover to bring about political change. Putin once famously branded Russian NGOs involved in politics as "jackals."


      Zhirinovsky: no meteorites, it's new US weapons test
      Aleksandras Budrys
      The Moscow News, February 15, 2013

      The leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party and vice speaker of the State Duma Vladimir Zhirinovsky accused on Friday the United States of testing new weapons over Russia immediately after reports of a meteorite explosion appeared.
      "There have been no meteorites. It was a new American weapons test," Zhirinovsky said.
      "(US State Secretary) John Kerry tried warning (Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov) on Monday, but failed," Zhirinovsky said, obviously referring to reports that Lavrov on a visit to Africa had failed to answer Kerry's repeated phone calls.


      Putin Warns Against Foreign 'Interference' at FSB Meeting
      Alexander Winning
      Moscow Times, February 15, 2013

      President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called on security service officers to shield Russians from an array of threats, including extremist groups, foreign-funded organizations and cyberattacks.
      "Any direct or indirect interference in our internal affairs, any form of pressure on Russia, our allies and partners is unacceptable," Putin told senior Federal Security Service officers at a meeting, according to a transcript on the Kremlin website.
      In recent months, Putin has intensified a push to eliminate foreign influence and promote patriotism in Russia. He has been a vocal proponent of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children passed last year, and earlier this week he submitted a bill to parliament that would prohibit government officials from holding bank accounts abroad.
      Speaking at Thursday's meeting, attended by FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov, Putin warned of the dangers of unbridled free speech, saying that "no one has the right to sow hatred, stir up society and thus threaten the lives, well-being and peace of millions of our citizens."
      "Neither does anyone have a monopoly on speaking in the name of Russian society, especially structures financed from abroad and serving foreign interests," he said.
      Putin has said before that he believes that certain nongovernmental organizations take orders from foreign states to promote instability in the country.
      Last year, the State Duma passed a law as part of an effort to stymie the perceived threat. The law obliges NGOs engaged in "political activities" to register as "foreign agents."
      The president was addressing the FSB the same day a suicide bomber killed four police officers by detonating a bomb at a police checkpoint outside the city of Khasavyurt in the volatile Dagestan republic.
      Putin, who served as a security service officer for more than a decade and headed the FSB from 1998 to 1999, said that Thursday's blast served as a warning that the country's anti-terrorism forces must be constantly vigilant and that intercepting terrorist attacks should remain the FSB's foremost priority.
      The president also renewed calls for a system to detect, prevent and counter cyberattacks.
      "It is a matter of importance that you carry out this task as effectively as possible in the shortest time frame," he said.
      The FSB's National Anti-Terrorism Committee coordinated 60 special operations in 2012 and prevented six terror attacks, according to statistics cited by Putin. Over the same period, the FSB stopped 181 foreign intelligence officers.
      Putin said FSB employees' salaries were increased on Jan. 1 by an average of 40 percent.



      Uncertain World: Why Russia's Soft Power Is Too Soft
      by Fyodor Lukyanov
      RIA Novosti., 31 January 2013

      Soft power has become the recent focus of discussion around Russia's foreign policy. Observers argue that Moscow, which still believes in the decisive role of weapons and other traditional elements of power, is losing the information and image war. Impressions are becoming a real influencing factor in our interconnected world. But Russia's understanding of soft power differs radically from that of the West.
      The Russian authorities have set three ambitious goals in the foreign policy area. The first is to promote Russian culture, the Russian language and the Russian education system as attractive and competitive. A noble goal for sure.
      The second is to counter the foreign media's negative depiction of the country's policies and the Russian way of life. This is an old goal, but achieving it at this stage demands fundamentally new and costly tools.
      The third goal is to create a group of "Russia's friends" around the world. Sources in government say that Russia's new foreign policy concept involves reviving the Union of Friendship Societies, and even holding International Festivals of Youth and Students.
      In other words, Russia plans to revive Soviet-era practices that were quite effective. But can they be applied in modern times?
      The Soviet model was based on the idea of social progress and justice (I am not going to discuss that model's success, as this is of secondary importance when it comes to the ability to project the desired image). The Soviet Union not only offered an alternative social model, but also actively promoted it outside Russia, challenging its ideological opponents and promoting an image of the Soviet Union as a potentially powerful patron.
      Moreover, the Soviet Union not only promised help - it lavished it on countries that accepted its patronage. Modern Russia, with its "profit first" mentality, has become more pragmatic in relations with other countries, and, as a result, less attractive as a partner.
      Russia lacks an ideological foundation on which to develop a concept that appeals to other countries. It has exhausted the Soviet model and is groping for a replacement, but has so far formulated only traditional ideas based on conservative values, which are by definition incapable of spurring progress.
      Judging by the recent initiatives, even the country's quest for a new Russian identity is taking it further into the past, to the well of pre-Soviet traditions. Russia's past has quite a few glorious chapters, which should definitely be used as an example. But can looking to the past be an effective way to lead a country into the future?
      Moreover, in today's world, you can't base an international festival of youth and students on a conservative message and<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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