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Bulletin 7:4 (2013)

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 7, No. 4(192), 24 March 2013 Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta,
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 24, 2013
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 7, No. 4(192), 24 March 2013
      Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta, Vildane Oezkan & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 16 - 28 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: 16 - 28 February 2012

      Three Suspected Militants Killed in Dagestan
      RIA Novosti, February 17, 2013

      MOSCOW, February 17 (RIA Novosti) - Law enforcement officers have killed three suspected militants in the Russian North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, the Investigative Committee reported on Sunday.
      The militants were spotted early on Sunday during a security operation in a forest near the village of Pokrovskoye in the Khasavyurt district in northern Dagestan.
      The militants opened fire on the law enforcement officers "and were killed by retaliation fire. There are no casualties among the police," the Investigative Committee said.
      The identities of the gunmen are being established.
      In a separate episode, an unknown assailant opened fire on police officers in the Khasavyurt district on Saturday evening and was killed by return fire. One policeman was wounded in the clash, the Interior Ministry reported.
      "When police officers tried to stop a VAZ-2114 car for document check, a man inside the car fired at them," a ministry spokesman said. "He was killed by return fire."
      "One police officer has been hospitalized with wounds," he added.
      An investigation is underway.
      The Islamist insurgency, once confined largely to the republic of Chechnya, has spread across the North Caucasus in recent years. Attacks on security forces, police and civilians are reported regularly in the neighboring republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria.
      Russian President Vladimir Putin said in mid-October that more than 300 terrorists were killed in the North Caucasus "in the past few months." "Terrorism" in official Russian politics is used loosely and in preference to more neutral terms, such as "insurgency."
      Over a decade after the war against Islamist separatists in Chechnya ended, Russian security forces continue to fight militants in the volatile region.


      Lawyers Appeal Russian Nationalist Coup Plot Sentence
      RIA Novosti, February 18, 2013

      MOSCOW, February 18 (RIA Novosti) - Lawyers for a former Russian military intelligence officer, sentenced earlier this month to 13 years in prison on charges of plotting an armed coup, filed an appeal against the verdict on Monday.
      Сolonel Vladimir Kvachkov, 64, an expert on sabotage who authored a book on the subject, was sentenced on February 11 over a plan to seize weapons from an arms depot in Kovrov, a small town in central Russia's Vladimir Region, and use them to spark an armed revolt.
      "The trial saw every violation possible," lawyer Oksana Mikhalkina told the Rapsi legal news agency. "We will ask for the annulment of the guilty sentence."
      Kvachkov, a nationalist activist, was arrested on the coup charges in December 2010, a day after Russia's Supreme Court had found him not guilty of a 2005 attack on Anatoly Chubais, the then head of the Unified Energy System and an architect of the 1990s privatization of state assets.
      Both Kvachkov and Mikhalkina alleged after this month's verdict that Chubais had ordered the new charges as "revenge."
      Chubais denied the claim in a blog post, but called Kvachkov a "dangerous fascist extremist who is ready to sacrifice people's lives for his mad ideas."
      A former police official, Alexander Kiselyov, was also sentenced to 11 years for his part in the plot.


      Ten Commandments Party established in Russia
      Johnson's Russia List, February 18 2013

      Moscow, February 18, Interfax - The inaugural congress of the Russian Ten Commandments Party took place in Moscow. The total of 134 delegates from 45 Russian subjects, including Christians of different confessions, Muslims, and Jews, participated in the inaugural congress on February 17. The political council, the decision making body of the party, was headed by Sergey Mezentsev, Ph.D. "I hope that your activity will help to restore moral values, God's Ten Commandments in the everyday political life, in the life of our society. I hope that you will stay faithful to these God's Commandments, that you'll be able to unite a considerable number of people," chairman of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said at the congress. He said he was happy that the party was based on the Ten Commandments, which were shared by different religions, and some of commandments were even shared by non-believers. Moral standards are unchangeable, "they weren't invented by people, they aren't a subject of public agreement, they were set once and for all," he said. "We need a real moral revolution, or counterrevolution. The moral values should return to political, economic life, to interpersonal relations," the priest said. Head of the Russian Muslim Department for Working with Public Organizations Ahmad Makarov said that morals were being degraded, and the Pussy Riot performance in the Christ the Savior Cathedral, which insulted not only Orthodox believers, but "all of us", proves it. "Unfortunately, a lot of our citizens consider civil state to be a display of militant secularism, which is unavoidably related to the destruction of the traditional cultures of our country's people. No religion will be able to respond adequately to all these challenges on its own," Makarov said. Head of the Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Communities in Russia Rabbi Zinovy Kogan said that his organization would cooperate with the Ten Commandments Party, which "should become a platform for religious dialogue so that civil and god-fearing citizens felt confident." The program of the Ten Commandments Party stipulates that the party regards the commandments as a basis for its activities. The party members intend to put religious social doctrines and humanistic ideals into practice, to facilitate the appointment of honest people as government officials, to develop the institutes of civil society, to form a social law-based state, to defend national interests, to fight against corruption, and to establish a favorable investment climate, the program said.


      United Russia deputies want expert's offer to reform Russian Church probed for extremism
      Interfax-Religion, February 19, 2013

      Moscow, February 19, Interfax - Mikhail Markelov, a State Duma deputy from theUnited Russia party, intends to ask the Russian Investigative Committee to check an article by a political expert Stanislav Belkovsky, published in the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, for extremism and defamation.
      "If violations of these articles [of the Russian Criminal Code on extremism and defamation] are found in Belkovsky's material, I demand a criminal case against him to be opened," the website of United Russia quoted Markelov, a member of the State Duma Committee on Nationalities, as saying at a meeting on Tuesday.
      Belkovsky wrote in his article, published on February 15, that the Russian Orthodox Church "has to be transformed into a confederation of independent parishes," where "parishioners will elect pastors, pastors - bishops, bishops - the patriarch." "The reformation is necessary so that the Church becomes an institution for the emancipation of Russians and ceases to be an agent of authoritarianism and a servant of the secular authorities," Belkovsky wrote.
      "Belkovsky's article is definitely causing additional tension in society and is creating a very serious conflict," Chairman of the State Duma committee on regulation and United Russia member, Sergei Popov, said previously.
      "We think that the Orthodox community and clergy should evaluate this, whether they might file a complaint with the prosecutor's office on these issues to investigate. It would be right if they were to take advantage of this opportunity," the United Russiawebsite quoted Popov.
      Belkovsky said he did not give grounds for a criminal case to be opened against him, however he did not rule out one being opened.
      "All statements, saying that my concept to reform the Russian Orthodox Church are extremist and deserve a criminal case, have nothing to do with either the spirit or the letter of the Christian religion, or Russian criminal legislation," Belkovsky told Interfax.
      "I don't rule out a criminal being opened," he said.


      Migrant Workers Call on Putin For Amnesty - Izvestia
      RIA Novosti, February 20, 2013

      MOSCOW, February 20 (RIA Novosti) - The head of Russia's Federation of Migrants has written to President Vladimir Putin on behalf of all foreign workers asking him to grant an amnesty to the country's millions of illegal immigrants, Izvestia newspaper reported on Wednesday.
      Muhammad Amin Majumder said in his letter there are around 10 million immigrants illegally working in Russia who could be contributing tax revenue to the Russian economy if they were legalized. The best solution would be to grant amnesty to all illegal immigrants, Majumder wrote.
      Immigrants "are ready to pay taxes and to respect Russian laws and traditions," he said, adding the Russian budget loses "several billion rubles every year due to the shadow economy and the growing level of illegal immigration."
      According to Izvestia, some deputies of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, supported the idea. But Dmitry Sablin of United Russia, a deputy chairman of the Duma's CIS Committee, said an amnesty should only apply to immigrants who are employed.
      Similar amnesties in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States have yielded positive results, former Deputy Director of the Federal Migration Service Vyacheslav Postavnin told Izvestia.
      However, another expert, Yury Krupnov, argued that "these kinds of steps will only maintain and even encourage illegal immigration, instead of fighting it."
      Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the letter, saying he had not yet seen it, Izvestia reported.
      The Federal Migration Service also declined to comment, saying it had not yet seen Majumder's letter.


      Putin refused to give the Schneerson library to the Hasidic Jews
      February 20, 2013

      Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting of the Presidential Council on Interethnic Relations at the Jewish Museum and the Centre of Tolerance on Tuesday. At the meeting Putin proposed to place the Schneerson library right at this museum, but rejected categorically the idea to give it to the Hasidic Jews. Meanwhile, the president has some ideas over a new history textbook.
      The museum, which is created by the Russian Jewish community, is impressive with its true Russian sweep, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reported. The exposition is located on 4,500 square meters, its total area is very large of 17,000 square meters.
      At the end of the meeting Putin had to seek for a decision worthy of Solomon. On the one hand, he found it, confirming the impossibility to hand over the Schneerson library to the religious movement Agudas Chasidei Chabad in the United States, on the other hand, proposing to exhibit the books at the Moscow Jewish Museum. "I am ready to formulate an appropriate instruction to the government and the Culture Ministry," the president pledged.
      "I can state with regret that this problem turned in a scandal," the Kommersant daily quoted the Russian president as saying. "The library primarily belongs to the Russian state. From the legal point of view, it consists of two parts. Schneerson collected it in Russia in the nineteenth century, and the first part was nationalized by the decision of the Council of People's Commissars in 1918. If we agree that the Russian state property will be passed to someone, we will open the Pandora box. If we begin to satisfy such lawsuits... We are not ready for this. This is impossible! The second part is brought to our country as the trophies after the Second World War.." Putin said.
      At the meeting of the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations Vladimir Putin voiced the plan to fulfil the strategy of the state national policy that was approved last December, the Novye Izvestia daily noted. Putin named as one of measures to build up interethnic friendship a common Russian history school textbook, which would avoid any possible interpretations.
      "It is needed to show at concrete examples that Russia's fate was created through the union of different peoples, traditions and culture," Vladimir Putin said. "This is a systemic, complex and creative work and it should meet the interests, needs of children and modern public realities," Putin pointed out. In the view of the president, not only the specialists from the Russian Ministry of Education and Science and the Russian Academy of Sciences, but also two oldest Russian public unions - historical and military historical societies, can be involved in the making of an all-Russia history textbook.
      The newspaper noted that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky stated earlier that a common Russian history textbook should be made. Dmitry Medvedev even noted that over different interpretations of the same historical events the school students have a huddle of ideas.


      Ultranationalists Move to Slap Fines on Use of Foreign Words
      RIA Novosti, February 21, 2013

      MOSCOW, February 21 (RIA Novosti) - The ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has submitted a bill imposing fines of up to 50,000 rubles (about $1,700) on officials for using foreign words that have Russian equivalents in public, the State Duma press service said on Thursday.
      The bill seeks to amend the Law on the State Language of the Russian Federation and the Code of Administrative Offenses.
      LDPR deputies said the use of "American and British" loanwords, such as "diler" (dealer), "menedzher" (manager), "singl" (single), "seishn" (session), "butik" (boutique) and others should be penalized with fines of 2,000 to 2,500 rubles ($65 to $82) for individuals, 4,000 to 5,000 rubles ($131 to $164) for officials and 40,000 to 50,000 rubles ($1,315 to $1,700) for corporate entities.
      In the document accompanying the proposed law, the deputies argued that there is no other effective way of combating the widespread use of such words, which is detrimental to the Russian language, on television, in parliament and in the business sphere.
      Many Russian organizations unnecessarily include foreign words and expressions into their titles, the party said.
      The language law should regulate all use of Russian, including not just by the government and the administration, but also in advertising and in the media.
      At present, the law does not stipulate any penalties for "linguistic offenses," the deputies said.


      Duma Requests Extremism Probe into Church Reform Article
      RIA Novosti, February 21, 2013

      MOSCOW, February 21 (RIA Novosti) - Representatives of the four factions in the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, on Wednesday requested an extremism probe into an article on a Russian Orthodox Church reform by political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky.
      In the article published by the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily on February 15, Belkovsky says that the Russian Orthodox Church should cease to exist in its present form, "as a single bureaucratic entity," and should be transformed instead into a "confederation of independent parishes," so that "parishioners elect their pastors, pastors [elect] bishops and bishops [elect] the patriarch."
      According to lawmakers, the article contains "rude and groundless attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill."
      "In this article Belkovsky has laid down his own program of action by the opposition concerning the Russian Orthodox Church. The first paragraph of this program states that the Russian Orthodox Church should be eliminated as a religious entity," the lawmakers said. "As this article was published in a wide-circulation newspaper, we consider it a display of religious extremism and an incitement to religious hatred."
      They requested Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and Russian Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin to probe the article and take measures if necessary.


      Russia to check reports of adoption of Russian child by U.S. woman in same-sex union
      February 21, 2013

      Moscow - The Russian Investigative Committee will check media reports about the adoption of a Russian child by a U.S. woman in a same-sex marriage, committee spokesman Vladimir Markin has told Interfax.
      "The check will be conducted at instructions from Investigative Committee chairman Alexander Bastrykin," Markin said.
      Earlier Russian diplomats drew attention to the situation.
      "We are seriously concerned about the situation with the 2007 adoption of Russian child Yegor Shatabalov by U.S. citizen Marcia Anne Brandt under a ruling issued by the Kemerovo region's court. According to information possessed by the Russian Embassy in Washington, the U.S. citizen lived in a 'same-sex' union with a woman named Beth Chapman. Marcia Anne Brandt deliberately concealed that circumstance from the Russian court to go around the Russian Family Code, which provides that marriage is a union between a man and a woman," Russian human rights ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov said in his comments posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website.
      "The Russian Foreign Ministry and the relevant Russian authorities are investigating the circumstances governing Yegor's adoption. Our embassy and general consulate in San Francisco are seeking consular access to him, which we are now denied," Dolgov said.
      Dolgov said Brandt and Champan broke up in 2009 and began a custody battle.
      "The boy was involved in a conflict that was doubtful in terms of morals. We believe that the situation Yegor is in now is unacceptable and damaging to his mental health. We are convinced that all these things contradict the boy's interests and requires the provision to him of normal living conditions and a chance to be raised in a full-fledged family," Dolgov said.


      US ambassador to Moscow calls on Russia to stop exploiting adoption row
      By Jonathan Earle
      The Daily Telegraph, 22 Feb 2013

      Michael McFaul said he was "troubled" by reports suggesting that the US government was indifferent to the death of Max Shatto in a Texas hospital in January. He also criticised "inaccurate portrayals" of Americans, whom pro-Kremlin media have painted as having abusive tendencies. "It is time for sensational exploitations of human tragedy to end and for professional work between our two countries to grow, on this issue and many others," Mr McFaul wrote in a blog. Senior officials and Kremlin-friendly news outlets have seized on the boy's death as proof that Russia was right to ban US adoptions earlier this year. Officials and lawmakers have accused the United States of hushing up the death and failing to provide access to Max's two-year-old brother. Mr McFaul forcefully denied this. "From the earliest stage, local Texas authorities have been in touch with Russian diplomats in the US," he wrote, adding that Russian diplomats had twice called the State Department to express gratitude for the "excellent cooperation."
      About 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by US parents in the last two decades. Twenty are known to have died, and the bitter diplomatic tussle, ostensibly over the orphans' well-being, has come to symbolise souring relations since Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency in May. Russian lawmakers banned US adoptions earlier this year, claiming that Russian children were not safe in the United States after a string of abuse scandals, some of which were fatal, sparked a public outcry and strained ties between the two former Cold War foes. The ban was widely seen as a response to a new US law, the so-called Magnitsky Act, that calls for visa and financial sanctions against Russians suspected of committing human rights abuses.


      Medvedev Says Talk of Russia as Human Rights Violator 'Frivolous'
      Moscow Times
      February 22, 2013

      In an interview with the Brazilian daily O Globo, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said talk of Russia as a human rights violator was "frivolous" and suggested prison sentences received by Pussy Riot band members could have been less strict.
      "I do not believe that we are an absolutely perfect, model society and an absolutely perfect state. We have our problems; we see them and know [about them], we have a young civil society and a young developing democracy, with some flaws. But to consider Russia an autocracy where human rights are violated is just frivolous, although such a view does exist," he said.
      Russia has come under international criticism for its human rights record in recent years, with both Freedom House and Human Rights Watch releasing reports warning of a worsening political situation in Russia, citing failed reforms, crackdowns on freedom of assembly and harassment of Kremlin critics.
      The recent Pussy Riot trial ¬ in which three young women were sentenced to two years in prison for singing an anti-Putin song in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral ¬ gained international attention and further damaged Russia's image in the eyes of the rest of the world.
      Medvedev commented on the circumstances of that case in the interview, saying "Maybe it wasn't necessary to apply the strictest punishment, maybe it would've been sufficient to do something less harsh, make a less harsh decision. But it was a court's decision."
      This marks the second time Medvedev has expressed such an opinion. In September, about a month after the trial ended, he criticized the decision to keep the punk rockers in jail at a meeting with United Russia members.


      Gay Propaganda Ban 'Not Discrimination' - Russian FM
      RIA Novosti, February 26, 2013

      MOSCOW, February 26 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti) - The ban on "gay propaganda" among minors, currently under review in Russian legislature, does not infringe on human rights - unlike "gay propaganda" itself, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
      "We're not discriminating against anyone, we just don't want reverse discrimination, when one group of citizens gets the right to aggressively impose their values, unsupported by most of the population, especially on children," Lavrov said in Moscow.
      He spoke after his Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans urged the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, the State Duma, to drop the controversial bill on gay propaganda because it may violate international agreements on human rights.
      "We don't have a single global or pan-European obligation to allow gay propaganda," Lavrov replied, speaking at a press conference after a meeting with Timmermans.
      Russia had fulfilled all of its humanitarian obligations regarding same-sex relations when it decriminalized male homosexual contact in 1993, the Russian diplomat said.
      Instead of campaigning for Russian gays, Europe should deal with flagrant rights violations on its own turf, most notably the presence of "non-citizens" in Estonia and Latvia who were denied citizenship after these countries proclaimed independence from the Soviet Union, Lavrov added.
      The Duma voted 388 to one in support of the "gay propaganda" ban in the first of three required readings in late January.
      Several dozen opponents and supporters of the bill marked the occasion with violent clashes outside the Duma building in central Moscow. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton criticized the bill after the first reading, saying it could infringe on human rights.
      Russian lawmakers are currently working on a legal definition of "gay propaganda" ahead of the crucial second reading, which would not take place before late May.
      The ban in its current form envisages fines of 4,000 to 500,000 rubles ($130 to $16,500) for individuals and organizations trying to convince minors of the benefits of same-sex relations.
      Eleven of 83 Russian regions have installed similar bans since 2006; many of them also cover bisexual and transsexual relations, which are not part of the federal bill. The list of regions includes St. Petersburg, where conservative activists unsuccessfully sued pop star Madonna last year for "gay propaganda" over her speaking out in support of the city's gays during a show in August.
      A poll by state-run VTsIOM last April showed that 94 percent of Russians have never encountered gay propaganda, but 86 percent support a ban on it. The nationwide poll covered 1,600 respondents and had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.
      Russian authorities have never sanctioned a gay pride rally, though LGBT activists have been applying for permits in Moscow since 2006. Last May, the St. Petersburg authorities permitted a rally against homophobia, but its participants were attacked by dozens of masked thugs, all of whom evaded arrest.


      FSB director: radical Islam spreading in Urals, Siberia
      26 February 2013

      Pyatigorsk - Radical Islam is spreading not only in the North Caucasus but also in the Urals and Siberia, Federal Security Service Director, National Anti-Terrorist Committee Secretary Alexander Bortnikov said at the committee meeting in Pyatigorsk on Tuesday.
      "Radical Islamic ideas are spreading in the region under the disguise of the fight for true religion and justice against the backdrop of remaining socioeconomic problems," he said.
      The trend has emerged in the North Caucasus and certain regions in the Volga, Urals and Siberian federal districts, Bortnikov said.
      The Russian president ordered every anti-terrorist authority to protect citizens, primarily young people, from harmful impacts of the extremist ideology and prevent their recruitment by terrorist groups and militants, he said.


      International law does not bind permission of homosexuality propaganda - Lavrov
      February 26, 2013

      Moscow - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Dutch counterpart Franciscus Timmermans disagreed over Russian international commitments regarding homosexual rights.
      Timmermans recalled at a Tuesday press conference in Moscow that he had urged the State Duma not to ban homosexual propaganda because that law could breach fundamental rights and freedoms declared by international documents.
      There are international instruments to decide whether this is so, the minister said. In the words of Timmermans, Russia made it clear it would abide by international commitments and they should wait and see what happened, but EU foreign chief Catherine Ashton, he and other European ministers had asked the State Duma not to pass the law.
      The only criterion is the commitments undertaken by countries at universal or common European institutes, Lavrov said.
      "We do not have a single universal or common European commitment to permit homosexual propaganda," Lavrov stressed.
      He said that the Criminal Code article, which punished homosexuals in the Soviet Union, was abolished a long time ago and "homosexuals could do what they do absolutely freely and with impunity."
      "This (principle) fits the commitment of all states to prevent any kind of discrimination. Yet we have no commitment to permit propaganda, which is very aggressive as a rule. We can hardly undertake this commitment even theoretically because we have our moral values and the historical, cultural and religious traditions of our society," the minister said.
      "We do not discriminate against anyone, but we do not want to be discriminated against either: to give a group of citizens the right to aggressively promote their values, which differ from the values of the majority of society members, and thrust them on children," Lavrov said.


      Novosibirsk Regional Court brands Allya-Ayatextremist
      Interfax-Religion, February 27, 2013

      Novosibirsk, February 27, Interfax - The Novosibirsk Regional Court has branded extremist the Allya-Ayat religious organization, senior assistant to the regional prosecutor Natalia Markasova told Interfax on Wednesday.
      "The Novosibirsk Regional Court has recognized the Allya-Ayat religious organization as extremist by request of the Novosibirsk regional prosecutor," she said.
      The Novosibirsk regional police said Allya-Ayat had been operating in the region since the early 2000s. The organization opened 20 centers on the rented premises and claimed it could cure people from all kinds of diseases with special texts and theZvezda Vselennoy (Star of the Universe) magazine applied to painful spots.
      The organization was outlawed in Kazakhstan in 2008 but its branches continued to operate in Siberia.
      Pensioners and heavily sick persons frequently become Allya-Ayat followers.


      New Local Bill Seeks to Ban Protests in City Center
      Sergey Chernov
      The St. Petersburg Times, Issue #1748
      February 27, 2013

      Opposition political groups and concerned citizens continue to protest against a new local bill on demonstrations that effectively bans protests in the city center, passed by the Legislative Assembly last week in its third and final reading.
      In hopes of preventing Governor Georgy Poltavchenko from signing it, the Yabloko Democratic Party has filed a complaint against the bill, describing it as "outrageous" and "illegal."
      "We are acting to prevent this becoming law, because, once in force, and used even once, the new law will have a devastating impact on the rights of citizens," said Yabloko's Nikolai Rybakov in a statement.
      Called "On assemblies, rallies, demonstrations, marches and picketing in St. Petersburg," the bill was passed Feb. 20 by 27 deputies, with 15 voting against.
      The bill forbids the holding of rallies on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg's main street, as well as on Palace Square and St. Isaac's Square, which had previously been used for rallies, including the now-legendary mass protests against the 1991 anti-reformist coup.
      Rallies will also be banned from within 50 meters of the entrances of buildings occupied by state authorities, while one-man demonstrations can only be held if there is no other protester within 50 meters.
      According to the bill, the restrictions have been imposed "in order to protect the rights and freedoms of man and citizen, the rule of law, order and public safety."
      In his statement, Grigory Yavlinsky, chair of the Yabloko faction in the city's Legislative Assembly, stressed that by passing the law, the city parliament ignored not only the negative opinion expressed by the public at the Dec. 3 public hearing and an address by the city's ombudsman Alexander Shishlov, but also the Constitutional Court's Feb. 14 ruling. Every amendment proposed by opposition deputies was rejected.
      Apart from harsh restrictions on rallies, the bill also states that without authorization from the authorities, no more than 200 demonstrators are allowed to assemble at specially designated sites "for the collective discussion of socially important issues and expression of public opinion." City Hall has designated a small site on the Field of Mars for such a purpose.
      Andrei Dmitriyev, local chair of The Other Russia party, said that the law may obstruct the historic May Day demonstration, a massive event featuring a broad range of political parties and movements, from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party to liberals, communists and nationalists.
      "It's even not clear how they will hold a May Day demonstration this year, when everybody always used to walk down Nevsky Prospekt and then rallied on Palace Square and St. Isaac's Square," Dmitriyev said Tuesday.
      "It's essential not only for civic activists, but also for every citizen, because people, when they are unhappy about anything, want to come to protest where the authorities sit, be it the Governor, the Legislative Assembly, district administrations or courts.
      "These are places where it's forbidden to protest now, so they lose any meaning. Of course, it's all illegal, it contradicts the Constitution, and we think that the main thing is not how the authorities act, but how the opposition and city residents will act."
      He said that the small site on the Field of Mars offered by City Hall as an allegedly liberal concession, allowing small groups to protest there without the necessary authorization, should be boycotted.
      "No self-respecting opposition [campaigners] can rally there, but both Yabloko and the nationalists have taken the bait and obediently go there to rally. It makes no sense."
      The State Duma passed a national law harshly restricting the freedom of assembly in June 2012, following a wave of protests against the flawed State Duma and presidential elections that were held in late 2011 and early 2012. It imposed a number of restrictions on public assemblies and abruptly raised fines for holding unsanctioned protests. Local laws followed.
      Rights groups have criticized the law as violating both the Russian Constitution and international agreements.


      Russian opposition leader Navalny faces new allegation
      RIA Novosti, February 27, 2013

      Russian opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny was accused on Wednesday of faking documents allowing him to work as an attorney, investigators said.
      "Investigators have doubts about the legality of A.Navalny's receipt of attorney status in 2009," said Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin. He said a signature had been faked on a document that Navalny presented to gain attorney status.
      Markin also said Navalny had been summoned to the Moscow headquarters of the Investigation Committee, which answers only to the president, in connection with the allegations.
      Navalny has consistently denied any impropriety in relation to his professional qualifications, which have also been questioned by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi.
      Markin said the "doubts" had emerged as part of a criminal investigation into charges that Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger and leader of street protests against President Vladimir Putin, organized a scheme which resulted in losses of some $500,000 to central Russia's Kirov region budget while acting as advisor to the governor there. He faces ten years behind bars if found guilty.
      Navalny called the accusations "strange" and absurd" when they were brought last summer, because the case had previously been looked into twice by investigators without charges being filed. The case was reopened on the orders of Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin after Navalny accused him of owning undeclared property and other investments in the Czech Republic.
      Investigators have since opened three other criminal cases against Navalny, on charges of embezzling from a political party, deceiving an international cosmetics company, and conspiring to illegally privatize a central Russia distillery.
      "The Investigation Committee has turned into something between [Joseph] Goebbels' hellish machine and the NTV channel," Navalny wrote in his Live Journal Blog, referring to the head of the Nazi's propaganda ministry and a pro-Kremlin television channel known for its "exposes" of opposition figures.
      Navalny, who currently has no criminal record, will be ineligible to stand for public office if he is convicted on any of the charges against him.
      Another high-profile opposition leader, Sergei Udaltsov, was placed under house arrest earlier this month in connection with charges that he plotted to overthrow Putin. The charges were brought after grainy footage was aired by the NTV channel that purported to show Udaltsov and two other leftist activists discussing the alleged plot with Georgian politician Givi Targamadze. Udaltsov and the other two activists, Leonid Razvozzhayev and Konstantin Lebedev, face up to ten years behind bars if found guilty of the charges, which they deny.
      Putin denied last year that he was clamping down on dissent against his 13-year rule as president and prime minister, saying "everyone" must obey Russian law.


      Chabad Rejects Proposal from Putin to Put Chabad Collection in Russian Jewish Museum
      Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union
      February 27, 2013

      Chabad rejected a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin that a disputed collection of books and documents be kept at a Jewish museum in Moscow.
      The New York-based religious movement, responding Thursday to the suggestion floated by Putin earlier this week, insisted that Russian authorities immediately hand over the so-called Chabad Library.
      "The collection must be returned to the Agudas Chasidei Chabad library at Chabad's worldwide headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y.," Nathan Lewin, the movement's attorney, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.
      Chabad claims sole ownership of thousands of Jewish texts seized by Soviet authorities during the 1920s and 1940s.
      Last month, a U.S. District Court judge penalized Moscow $50,000 a day until it releases the documents. The Russian government considers the texts to be state property and refuses to pay any fines.


      France supports project to build Russian Orthodox center in Paris - Hollande
      Interfax-Religion, February 28, 2013

      Moscow/Paris, February 28, Interfax - The French authorities support the project to build a Russian Orthodox cultural center on the Branly Embankment in Paris, but the project needs to be elaborated, French President Francois Hollande said.
      "We're committed to completing this project. This is an obligation that we have assumed with respect to Russia," Hollande said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvyradio station on Thursday.
      "However, the construction permit, documents we've been provided with, don't comply with the regulations of the French republic. And even though we have no doubts in the project's quality, it can't be implemented yet," Hollande said.
      This issue has already been discussed during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Paris and it was decided to establish another architectural council to readapt the project, the French president said.
      Hollande said that abandoning the project to construct the Russian Orthodox center and turning it into an office building was out of the question.
      Based on the agreement between Russia and France, Russia purchased some land from the French government in March 2010. Russia bought the land on the Branly Embankment in front of the Alma Bridge to build an Orthodox cultural center, which "is to comply with the traditional canons of the Russian Orthodox Church and the spirit of the Seine Embankment architecture."
      The center was to comprise an Orthodox cathedral, administrative buildings for the diocese, multi-functional seminary halls and lecture halls, dormitory for seminary students, a library, and a big garden in the center. The Russian Orthodox cultural center in Paris is aimed to be a place to meet and hold cultural events for the Russian community and to introduce the Russian spiritual culture to French.


      Russian blogger sentenced for making pro-Nazi statements online
      RAPSI, February 28, 2013

      The Sverdlovsky District Court of Irkutsk has sentenced a member of the Belarusian Culture Partnership to eight months of correctional labor for posting extremist material online, the local Interior Ministry department said on its website.
      Alexei Kukhta promoted Nazism and nationalism on his personal pages on a social networking site.
      "The content included numerous posters, photographs, comments on them and poems which are extremely hostile and disdainful of certain ethnic groups and races," the statement says.
      Experts have concluded that the content contains allegations about the inferiority and deficiency of people of certain ethnic groups or races. Some of Kukhta's statements encouraged users to take violent action against and even to kill people of these nationalities.
      The police blocked Kukhta's pages and searched his apartment, where they found various Nazi-like symbols.
      Kukhta was charged and sentenced for inciting hatred and hostility. He plans to appeal the verdict.
      Several years ago, Alexei Kukhta was fined for wearing a coat bearing Nazi-like regalia at public events held as part of a youth festival in the Irkutsk Region.


      Re-Elected Zyuganov Defends Stalin's Grave
      Natalya Krainova
      The St. Petersburg Times, Issue #1748
      February 28, 2013

      MOSCOW - Gennady Zyuganov, re-elected Saturday as leader of the Communist Party, a position he has held for 17 years, said Tuesday that public calls to remove Stalin's and Brezhnev's graves from the Kremlin Wall Necropolis came from "provocateurs" and "SS loyalists."
      He vowed that his party would continue to fight proposals to rebury the leaders, as well as hundreds of other communists who have their final resting places at the Kremlin.
      Zyuganov, 68, has served as leader for the vast majority of the post-Soviet Communist Party's 20-year history, and his re-election came amid a chorus of criticism from fellow party members and leftist activists that his reign has amounted to a dictatorship.
      The weekend congress passed amendments to the party's charter granting more powers to the party's presidium and streamlining the procedure for dismissing a member or dissolving a regional branch.
      Former party members and other Communist activists publicly criticized a draft of the new charter earlier this month, saying it further deprived rank-and-file members of rights and granted "dictator powers" to the party's elite.
      Boris Kagarlitsky, head of the independent Institute of Globalization and Social Movements, said Zyuganov's re-election means he has "successfully eliminated his critics," who pointed to "failures of his policies."
      The Communist boss and his Kremlin-aligned party need not care about popularity ratings as long as the ruling United Russia party remains in power, Kagarlitsky said by phone.
      Talking to reporters Saturday, Zyuganov denied that his party was split or that the new leadership had been formed in an undemocratic way.
      The Communist Party has never been so "unanimous and united," Zyuganov said in comments carried by Interfax. He emphasized that he had not interfered in the appointment of candidates to the party's ruling bodies.
      The party's weekend congress saw the re-election of two of Zyuganov's long-term deputies - Ivan Melnikov, 62, and Vladimir Kashin, 64 - as well as the election of two new deputy leaders: Dmitry Novikov, 43, and Andrei Klychkov, 33.
      "Zyuganov has created a cohort of young wolves who will protect him [from attacks of critics]," said Alexei Mukhin, head of the Center for Political Information.
      In October, a group of Communists, including former party members, published an open letter criticizing the party's leadership, Vedomosti reported last week. In December, a congress of Communist groups demanded Zyuganov's dismissal at the then-upcoming election.
      The October and the December events are related to infighting to become Zyuganov's successor, an official close to the Kremlin told Vedomosti.
      But the Communist leader can't leave his post even if he wants to because his party has become a "brand" and "any changes" to that brand could lead to the party's "destruction," Mukhin said. Besides, Zyuganov has "cleaned up his environment" from critics, so now there is "no one to replace him," the pundit said.


      Putin denies human rights violations in Russia
      Johnson's Russia List
      February 28, 2013

      Moscow - Russian President Vladimir Putin said he disagrees that there were human rights problems in Russia in 2012, adding that election campaigns are accompanied by accusations of human rights violations all over the world.
      "I don't believe we had any special problems with human rights in 2012. We had an election campaign in 2012," Putin told a press conference following his meeting with his French counterpart Francois Hollande.
      Putin recalled that two election campaigns (parliamentary and presidential elections) were conducted in Russia in 2012.
      "In every country, and you can't not agree with that, political competition intensifies during major election campaigns, and that is always accompanied by calls made on the other party or third parties in this dispute to back this or that party, and people always talk about some violations," Putin said.
      "I don't think anything changed in Russia in this regard in 2012. We made a choice in favor of democratic development back in the early 1990s, and Russia has no intention of leaving this path," Putin said, responding to a question from French journalists, who said year 2012 was a hard year for Russia in terms of human rights observance.


      Court Frees Russian Nationalist
      RIA Novosti, February 28, 2013

      MOSCOW, February 28 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian nationalist activist walked free from a St. Petersburg court on Thursday after he was given a two and a half year suspended sentence after spending over a year behind bars awaiting trial.
      Maxim Kalinichenko was arrested on December 10, 2011 during a protest in St. Petersburg against alleged vote fraud in favor of the ruling United Russia party at that month's parliamentary polls.
      Police alleged he had urged fellow protesters to attack police. Kalinichenko denied the charges.
      Thursday's ruling was attended by a number of nationalist activists, who cheered when the sentence was read.
      Russia's nationalist movement has turned increasingly against President Vladimir Putin in recent years, with speakers at a march in central Moscow late last year slamming the country's leader over the Kremlin's ethnic minorities policies.



      Georgia as Russia's Future Asset
      Fyodor Lukyanov
      RIA Novosti, February 14, 2013

      Georgia has most likely entered the final stage of its political transformation. The next few weeks will show whether President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose term ends in October, is prepared to fight the government of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.
      The October parliamentary elections resulted in a state with two centers of power. The president still has broad powers, including the right to dismiss the government and call early parliamentary elections. But under the Georgian Constitution, he cannot do so six months before or after elections, which leaves Saakashvili a window of opportunity of just several days in April.
      If Saakashvili calls for early elections, conventional wisdom is that his party will lose seats in parliament. Since the president cannot keep the same government during the transition period, like in most countries, but must appoint a new cabinet, he may use this opportunity to try to sway public opinion in his favor.
      To prevent this from happening, the prime minister plans to amend the Constitution. This explains the recent escalation in tensions. Opposition protests will be staged, but the target audience will be the West, where Saakashvili has many supporters, not Georgia. Claims that the prime minister and his coalition are abandoning the Euro-Atlantic path in favor of closer relations with Russia may prove a difficult argument to refute.
      Still, the optimism inspired by the Georgian Dream party's victory in the parliamentary elections of October 2012 has not vanished. People are still relieved that Saakashvili's party was defeated.
      The majority of Georgians did not support the bold and rather harsh experiment that Saakashvili and his team of young reformers launched in 2003 to alter the national consciousness. Some see Saakashvili's attempt to demolish stereotypes as a positive step on the path to modernization. But, as history has shown repeatedly, you can't make people happy against their will.
      One of the reasons behind Saakashvili's defeat is his team's inability to build any kind of relationship with Russia. Some people voted for Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream primarily because he promised to break the deadlock with Moscow.
      Bilateral relations have indeed warmed since the prime minister's election, though, to be fair, relations could not have gotten much worse. The new team's efforts to strengthen its standing by dismantling the system Saakashvili created are a step toward improving relations with Russia, as the previous model was based on political and ideological opposition to Moscow.
      The wait-and-see period has also ended in Moscow. The Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry see that Ivanishvili is not a minion whom Saakashvili will replace when he does his bit.
      Russia has made a number of telling gestures, such as a meeting between the Georgian prime minister's special envoy and a state secretary of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Next the Russian and Georgian prime ministers shook hands in Davos, the Georgian Patriarch met with the Russian president in Moscow, and talks were launched to reopen the Russian market to Georgian wine and mineral water.
      These steps have sparked civil and academic initiatives, including meetings between journalists and experts. Last week, experts from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations presented a report on ways out of the political stalemate in Tbilisi to a packed audience hall. Of course, the report was criticized and some Georgians even protested outside. But everyone agreed that it was Moscow's first attempt to offer a positive agenda in a long time.
      Georgia is hungry for friendly gestures from Moscow. The history of bilateral relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been an endless chain of conflicts, with both sides' missteps fuelling tension.
      Normalizing relations with Georgia is simple for Russia, which only has to ease entry and import restrictions and to show that it is open to cooperation. But the next stage will be much more difficult. Russia must seize this opportunity, but also show restraint so as not to scare Georgia off.
      Russia, the largest and most powerful former Soviet republic, often forgets that a careless word can provoke an outcry lasting for weeks and even months. The possibility of Georgia returning to the CIS, recently broached by Russia, led to public protests and was used as a weapon against the Georgian government. There are red lines in Georgian politics that cannot be crossed, no matter how green the grass on the other side. Recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent nations is one such red line. Another is Georgia's "European choice."
      No progress can be expected on Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the foreseeable future. Conflicts that involve questions of sovereignty tend to be the most intractable. Russia will not withdraw its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia either, as this would do irreparable harm to Russia's prestige and disrupt the situation in the North Caucasus.
      Georgia's "European choice," though mostly symbolic, is very important to the country. Although Georgia identifies itself as a European country, most sensible people in Tbilisi understand that it has no prospect of joining NATO or the EU. But Georgia would be lost without its dream of European integration. It has no trust in Russia or enthusiasm for its ideas. And unfortunately, Russia has nothing comparable to the European idea to offer, at least while it's busy searching for its own new identity.
      Georgia clearly overestimates its importance to Russia. Many politicians and ordinary people in Russia wonder why they should try to restore relations with Georgia at all. NATO is no longer a problem, the new Georgian government is unlikely to continue the hostile North Caucasus policy of its predecessor, and Tbilisi no longer controls its former autonomous regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For these reasons and more, a close Russian-Georgian alliance is not a possibility. There are no interests important enough to justify the enormous effort it would take to forge such an alliance.
      This may be true if we look at the world from a purely mercantile standpoint. But no matter what happens in their relations, Georgia and Russia will always share a common culture and history. Such assets are not to be discarded in this globalized world, where superficial unity masks a deepening abyss of alienation. History does not stop with any leader's departure, and no one has a clear sense of what the future holds.


      Moscow angered by Russian child's death in the U.S.
      By Alexander Panov,
      RBTH based on Interfax , February 18, 2013

      The Russian Children's Rights Commissioner Pavel Astakhov announced that Moscow is going to launch a thorough investigation to investigate the case of an adopted Russian child killed in Texas at the end of January.
      Russian children's rights commissioner Pavel Astakhov said an adopted Russian child was killed in Texas at the end of January. His elder brother remains with his American adoptive parents. "Maxim [Kuzmin], age three, was beaten up by his adoptive mother who had been giving him heavy psychotropic drugs, citing the child's psychiatric disorder. The child had multiple bodily injuries, including injuries to the stomach, as well as numerous bruises on his head and feet," Astakhov told Interfax on Monday. Astakhov also said that the boy's elder brother lives with the same family and that the mother has been barred from taking care of him, although she was allowed to see him. "Our consuls must be allowed to see the files of the case and to take part in formulating the charges. An investigation must be conducted and the guilty woman must be brought to account. We often get confronted with situations in the U.S. where criminal charges are wrongly formulated. The adoptive parents are charged with premeditated murder and they are subsequently acquitted. No adjusted charges can be further presented," Astakhov said.,Hot topic: Adoption ban,Hot topic: Adoption Ban Nineteen deaths of Russian minors caused by their American adoptive parents have been reported since 1996. Moscow hopes that those guilty of the death of the adopted Russian child will be punished, and pledged to closely follow the investigation. "We do hope that those guilty will be severely punished. We will closely follow the investigation and we must say again that the U.S. Department of State, unlike local officials, provided no assistance to our diplomats in finding out the cause of the new fatality in the U.S. involving an adopted Russian child," the Russian Foreign Ministry's human rights commissioner, Konstantin Dolgov, told Interfax. Dolgov announced that an inquiry has already been started into the death of the Russian boy. "We are drawing the attention of the public to yet another instance of cruel abuse of a Russian boy adopted in the U.S. Maxim Kuzmin, age three, is dead. American child welfare services said he died on Jan. 21 in his adoptive parents' home in Texas after being cruelly treated by his adoptive mother," Dolgov said. "An examination revealed multiple injuries to the child's head and legs. A post-mortem examination also revealed damage to his organs which could only have been caused by a violent impact. It was established that the parents had been giving the boy a heavy psychotropic substance which is normally used to treat severe cases of schizophrenia in adults, not children. It is an excessively heavy and actually an intolerable drug for a child," he said. "We hope if these facts are proven in the ongoing investigation, those guilty of the boy's death will get due punishment," he said. Russia's Investigative Committee said on Monday that it had begun to investigate the death in the United States of one more boy adopted from Russia and may open a criminal case after that, committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Interfax. President Vladimir Putin signed a law on December 28, 2012, dubbed the Dima Yakovlev Law, which bans American families from adopting Russian children. Russia has withdrawn from the agreement with the United States on cooperation in child adoptions. The law took effect on January 1, 2013. The article is based on materials from Interfax.


      Russia escalating attacks on free expression a year on from Pussy Riot protest
      Amnesty International, 20 February 2013

      A year after the punk band Pussy Riot performed a protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral, the situation for freedom of expression has only worsened in Russia, Amnesty International said. Last year's arrest and criminal conviction of Pussy Riot members under the dubious charge of "hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred" signalled a fresh and severe clampdown on human rights in the country. Since then Russia's Parliament has adopted several new laws targeting activists and those critical of the authorities. "New laws introduced since the Pussy Riot protest have given the authorities sweeping powers to clamp down on NGOs, human rights and political activists in Russia and go against the country's international human rights obligations," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
      "Meanwhile, two Pussy Riot band members are still languishing in a prison colony far from their families, including small children - and our call for their immediate release continues. "Russia's government is failing to live up to promises made to its citizens 20 years ago after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It desperately needs to show a commitment to upholding human rights and must stop peddling the disingenuous line that civil liberties and social, economic and political stability are incompatible in Russia." Fresh attacks on free speech In June 2012, Russian authorities introduced further restrictive rules on conducting public protests, along with exceptionally high penalties of up to US$32,000., ,The same month libel - which had only a few months earlier been de-criminalized - made its way back into the Criminal Code, with heftier fines than before. In November 2012, a new law was introduced which requires NGOs receiving overseas funding to register as 'foreign agents'. This not only puts additional administrative burden on them, but more importantly, may create negative perceptions of their activities due to the negative connotation 'foreign agent' in the Russian language. That month a broad new legal definition of "treason" was also introduced, which could potentially criminalize human rights and political activism. And in December, Russia's Parliament passed the so-called "Dima Yakovlev" law, imposing further severe restrictions on NGOs and introducing discriminatory measures aimed at persons with dual US and Russian citizenship. Harsh punishment for Pussy Riot While these legislative changes were being rolled out, the Russian authorities tried, convicted and imposed harsh punishment on three Pussy Riot band members for their protest at Moscow's cathedral. In August 2012, following several months of pre-trial detention and unfair court proceedings, Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years imprisonment in a penal colony for their part in the protest. Ekaterina Samutsevich was later granted conditional release on appeal. Amnesty International has flagged the conditions in which Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Maria Alekhina are being held. Maria Alekhina received threats and had to be placed in solitary confinement. The maximum period she can be held there - three months - is due to expire soon, so the penal colony authorities must look into other options. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has health conditions which apparently deteriorated while in custody. Even though some medical help is being provided, her health might deteriorate further. Both women have young children who might be deprived of fully fledged contact with their mothers for yet another year. "The fact that Nadia and Masha are imprisoned even though they have children is also a certain kind of intimidation. After that, who would want to engage in [protests] if they have children? This is cruelty on purpose, cruelty for propaganda purposes. This is very unpleasant and we need to fight it somehow," Ekaterina Samutsevich recently told Amnesty International. "The Russian authorities have another chance to right the wrongs they have committed against the Pussy Riot members with an upcoming supervisory hearing and parole hearings for the Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina. They must take the opportunity to unconditionally release both women," said Dalhuisen.


      On Russia and Russianness: there is continuity between the Russian and the Soviet - a view from the West
      By Yulia Zamanskaya
      The Voice of Russia, 20 February 2913

      In his interview to the Voice of Russia Dr Jeffrey Murer, an expert in identity politics from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, shares his thoughts about Russia and the mysterious Russian soul. The academic discusses what Russia stands for in the twenty first century, how the modern concept of Russianness is different from the Soviet 'Self', what role Russian language and Orthodox church play in the formation of Russian identity, and the how the Cold War mentality is still entrenched in Russian and American politics. Voice of Russia: Russian post-Soviet identity remains a mystery for most Western scholars. As one Russian poet once said, a foreigner is incapable of understanding the "Russian soul". How do you perceive the Russian identity of the 21st century? How is contemporary Russian identity different from the Soviet identity? To begin with, I think that the notion of Russian identity during the Soviet years has always been a rather slippery conception. The distinction between what was Russian and what was Soviet has often been blurred. Some might argue that the core of the Soviet identity was solidified in the experience of the Great Patriotic War, and yet it was a Russian war. It was a war fought by Russians for everything that 'Russia' stood for. In this respect, the Great Patriotic War became a symbol of 'prolitarianized Russianness' - a new identity that was horizontally distributed to all of the Russian peoples. From this perspective, Soviet identity was very open, generous, and multicultural. In the post-Soviet times, this openness was transferred to the new Russian identity through the discourse of 'Rodina' [home-country]. So, I think that there is no sharp distinction between the Russian and the Soviet. There is a continuity between the two. Voice of Russia: Given that Russia is a multicultural state, what are the main factors that influence the construction of the modern Russian 'Self'? Would you say that Russian language and Christian religion are the primary constituents of Russian identity? This is a difficult question because this is what is being constantly debated and fought over. One the one hand, the notion of Russianness as a 'Rodina' can hold multiple languages. Being and feeling oneself as Russian does not prevent one from speaking a Siberian, Fino-Ugoric, or Altaic language. On the other hand, however, I think t<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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