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Bulletin 7:6 (2013)

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 7, No. 6(194), 8 May 2013 Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta, Vildane
    Message 1 of 1 , May 8, 2013
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 7, No. 6(194), 8 May 2013
      Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta, Vildane Oezkan & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 16 - 31 March 2013
      III PRIMARY SOURCES (Izborsk Club report on defense reform)

      [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 - 31 March 2012

      Russian Fundamentalists Sue US, Want Alaska Back
      RIA Novosti, March 16, 2013

      MOSCOW, March 16 (RIA Novosti) - US President Barack Obama must have known that his support of gay marriage would bring him trouble. But of all possible repercussions, a demand to roll back Alaska's 1867 sale to the United States was one he was unlikely to have seen coming. And yet that was the very claim that an ultraconservative religious group made in a Moscow arbitrage court, citing the need to protect fellow Christians from sin. Obama's alleged plans to legalize the "so-called same-sex marriage" threaten the freedom of religion of Alaska's Orthodox Christians, who "would never accept sin for normal behavior," the nongovernmental group Pchyolki ("Bees") said. "We see it as our duty to protect their right to freely practice their religion, which allows no tolerance to sin," the group said in a statement on their website. The Pchyolki also cited technical violations of the terms of the 1867 deal that saw Russia sell Alaska to the US government for $7.2 million, or 2 cents per acre. Payment was made by check and not golden coin as specified in the contract, the group said.
      The lawsuit, filed in January but not reported by media until this week, was not processed because the Pchyolki failed to include a handful of mandatory papers, including documents to justify their claims, according to Moscow arbitrage court's website. The group had until last week to provide the required paperwork, but failed to do so for reasons left unspecified.
      Among the papers the group failed to file was also a notification to the defendant, the US government, which may account for it not having commented on the lawsuit so far.
      The Pchyolki are a relatively obscure group created in 2008 to protect orphans' rights in Russia, which it did by campaigning against sexual education in schools, among other things.
      Their biggest claim to fame, until the Alaska lawsuit, was last year's instruction for believers published after punk band Pussy Riot's notorious performance in a Moscow church. The instruction on protecting places of worship from "blasphemers" advised to distract the offenders by spitting in their faces, ruin their recording equipment - if they have any - with holy water and detain them, with "bloodshed" deemed acceptable as long as it happens outside the church grounds.
      The Russian Orthodox Church estimated its flock in Alaska at about 50,000 of the state's total population of 730,000, the BBC said in 2010, adding that the faith was the main legacy of Russia's 68-year-long rule over the northern territory.
      Obama has often spoken in support of LGBT rights, including in his 2012 presidential address. But though he criticized bans on gay marriage imposed in various US states, he never voiced plans for a federal bill to legalize same-sex marriage.


      Faith of Russians in omens and astrology is declining - poll
      Interfax, March 17, 2013

      Russians have been losing interest in the supernatural over the years, sociological studies indicate. While in 2000 57 percent of respondents admitted that they believe in omens and 52 percent in prophetic dreams, last February the figures dropped to 52 percent and 43 percent respectively, Interfax was told at Levada Center that conducted a special study of the subject. Belief in omens is more inherent in women (61 percent), young people under 25 (62 percent), people with a higher education (55 percent) and residents of Moscow (70 percent) than the average person while prophetic dreams have a special meaning for women (55 percent), people aged 25-40 (48 percent), with a secondary education (46 percent) and living in Moscow (57 percent). However, presently only 28 percent of respondents believe astrologers while in the past the degree of confidence was at 33 percent. Even fewer Russians believe that aliens visit the Earth from time to time: 26 percent now compared to 31 percent in 2000. Astrological predictions are trusted by women (36 percent), young people under 25 (38 percent), with a secondary education (34 percent) living in cities with a population of 100,000-500,000, while aliens are expected more frequently by people aged 25-55 (28 percent), with a secondary education (33 percent) living in Moscow (41 percent). Over the years the number of Russians believing in eternal life has contracted from 21 to 17 percent even though at least a half of the population in Russia claims to belong to some religion. "The decline in the interest in supernatural can be sooner accounted to the fact that lately the mass media have been paying less attention to the subject," Oleg Savelyev, a sociologist from Levada Center, said. In his opinion, at the beginning of perestroika when the unofficial taboo on the subject was lifted, the media paid excessive attention to it. "After the demand was satisfied, the number of shows and articles about the supernatural clearly declined and as interest waned, so did faith in the extraordinary," the sociologist said. Savelyev said some 20 percent of the respondents admitted that over the past six years they used the services of fortune-tellers, magicians and healers for occult purposes with varying frequency (80 percent did not). Out of those who used such services 21 percent said their problems were always resolved, 32 percent said they were never resolved, and 47 percent admitted that help was only occasional.


      State Duma to debate bill on swear words in media in final reading Tuesday
      March 19, 2013

      MOSCOW - Deputy Speaker of Russia's State Duma, Sergei Zheleznyak of the United Russia party. expects the lower house of parliament will consider in the third and final reading a bill imposing fines for swear words in the media at the session Tuesday, March 19.
      "I hope the draft law on banning foul language in the media will be debated in the third reading already on Tuesday and will be submitted then then to the Federation Council that will consider it on March 27," Zheleznyak told reporters.
      Last Friday, the Duma adopted in the second reading. It imposes fines of up to 200,000 roubles /U.S. $1=RUB 30.76/ for legal entities for profane words in the mass media.
      The fines have remained unchanged as compared to those in the bill adopted in the first reading. The individuals violating provisions of the new legislative act and using profanity-laden language in the media will have to pay 2,000 to 3,000 roubles, while officials will face the fines ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 rubles and the legal entities, from 20,000 to 200,000 rubles.
      Amendments to the law 'On Mass Media' impose a ban on "distributing profanity-laden materials by using the mass media for this purpose."


      Best-Selling Russian Writer Turns From Crime to History
      The New York Times, March 20, 2013

      MOSCOW - Grigory Chkhartishvili, the best-selling Russian writer known for his detective novels set in imperial Russia (written under the name Boris Akunin), and for his foray into opposition politics directed against Vladimir V. Putin announced that from now on he would devote himself to writing a multivolume history of Russia. "Some writers dream of becoming the new Tolstoy, others the new Chekhov," he wrote on his blog on Wednesday. "It's come time to acknowledge that I have always dreamt of becoming the new Karamzin," he said, referring to Nikolai Karamzin, who wrote an early-19th-century 12-volume "History of the Russian State." "I am no longer a crime novelist," he declared. Mr. Chkhartishvili, 56, originally a literary scholar specializing in Japan, said he had already written his first history volume, about the period preceding the 12th-century Mongol invasion. The works, he said, would be accompanied by historical novels paralleling their chronology that would trace a family's history over a millennium. He said he aims for a mass readership with the history, and that Karamzin is a model because he also had a background as a fiction writer who didn't want to bore readers. History has become an increasingly tense topic in Russia. President Putin recently ordered that new ideologically approved history textbooks be produced for schools. Mr. Chkhartishvili wrote in his blog that Russians know very little about their own history and his work would be distinctly "non-ideological" in contrast to "current official efforts to produce a new 'correct' history."


      Russian Nationalism in Stavropol
      By Richard Byington
      Globalethicsnetwork.com, March 20, 2013

      Stavropol has made the news as of late with its rise in traditional Russian nationalism that has put its crosshairs on the minority Muslim population in the area. Although the area is determined to be approximately 80% ethnic Russian and muslims taking up roughly 10% of the population there have been two major movements against the minority groups. Recently there has been a rise in the implementation of Russian Cossack's becoming "deputized" to patrol the streets, and through brands of borderline hooliganism and physical intimidation, keep the minorities in line. The idea of an ethnic Russian in itself is a difficult concept to grasp in the first place. Being one of the oldest countries in world history, as well as the largest, Russia has historically been one of the most ethnically diverse cultures in the world. To claim someone ethnically Russian then runs into a grey area that I believe is decided through language and the individuals religion. Throughout the world people are discerned between one group or the other by dialect of a common language spoken, or a different common language all together. What is happening most commonly in Russia is that Religion is being used to determine what is "un-Russian". Even though Islam has a very deep history in Russia leading up to the earliest of tsarist Russian history, because of conflicts in the Caucasus from Peter the Great's reign and climaxing during Catherine the Great's the relationship has been strained. That is why I believe the local government of Stavropol has condoned and glorified this Russian nationalist movement. The relationship between these two groups of common Russians runs very deep and books have, and will continue to be written on it. I only hope to shed some light in a short post on the relationship between these two groups. Russian nationalism posts a danger much greater than what has been documented so far. Russia being the multi-ethnic country that it is, if divided by linguistic, cultural, or religious ideology would literally be torn apart from its borders to the inner city.


      Deacon Seeking Asylum After Supporting Pussy Riot
      The Moscow Times, March 24, 2013 | Issue 5094

      A Russian Orthodox deacon who supported Pussy Riot is seeking asylum in Prague, news agency 420on.cz reported Saturday. Deacon Sergei Baranov, from Tambov, drew support from Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg for writing to Patriarch Kirill in protest of the two-year sentencing of the band members, who had staged an anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow's most prominent cathedral. In the letter, he wrote that he did not want to be in the same church as "liars and posers," the news agency reported. He was subsequently stripped of his ecclesiastical rank. (MT)


      Putin BRICS Preamble Speaks of Greater Geopolitical Role
      The Moscow Times, 24 March 2013

      Russia wants the BRICS group of major emerging economies to broaden its role and get more involved in geopolitics, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview published on Friday. Putin, who has frequently criticized European and U.S. activities and has teamed up with fellow BRICS nation China to counter Western clout, spoke before this week's summit of the group, which also includes Brazil, India and South Africa. He told news agency Itar-Tass that the BRICS members were working on joint declarations on the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, the situation in the Middle East and other issues. "We invite our partners to gradually transform BRICS from a dialogue forum that coordinates approaches to a limited number of issues into a full-scale strategic cooperation mechanism that will allow us to look for solutions to key issues of global politics together," Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript of the interview. BRICS leaders are expected to use the March 26-27 meeting in Durban, South Africa, to discuss a report prepared by working groups led by Brazil on a proposed reserves pool and another by India and South Africa on the creation of an infrastructure bank. The reserves pool of central bank money would be available to emerging economies facing balance-of-payments difficulties or could be tapped to stabilize economies during periods of global financial crises, according to documents outlining the plan. "There are still some differences among the countries, but we believe that the BRICS will give the green light to both projects," said a senior Brazilian government official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the matters publicly. He also said the proposed contingency reserve arrangement would initially hold between $90 billion and $120 billion, although a figure was unlikely to be included in a final statement by the leaders. Another senior emerging-market official said the BRICS were also considering injecting an initial $50 billion into the new infrastructure bank. Details on the scale, location and structure of the bank will be discussed, but not agreed upon at the summit, the official added. The bank would support the ever-growing financing needs in emerging and developing nations for roads, modern-day port facilities, and reliable power and rail services. "It is too early to reach formal agreements on the bank and on the reserves fund, but both topics are on the agenda," said Paulo Nogueira Batista, the IMF's executive director for Brazil and 10 other countries. Putin, who wants more foreign investment to bolster Russia's economy, said Russia plans to announce the creation of a BRICS Business Council to promote trade and investment within the group and help launch multilateral business projects.


      Russian Church hopes new head of Anglican Church will not allow female bishops, same-sex marriage
      Interfax-Religion, March 25, 2013

      Moscow, March 25, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate expects Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to adhere to the norms of Christian morals and the church system.
      "We know that the Anglican Church is now going through a difficult time and various views, positions, and parties co-exist in it. However, we really hope that the traditional understanding of Christian morals and the church system will prevail in this polemic," Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, said during a meeting between Welby and representatives of the Orthodox Churches who attended his enthronement.
      The introduction of the institution of female bishops will lead to the elimination of even a theoretical possibility of the Moscow Patriarchate recognizing the church hierarchy of the Anglican Church, the communications service of the Department for External Church Relations reported on Saturday.
      "I would like you to know about that and take our opinion into account when this issue arises again," Metropolitan Hilarion said.
      Metropolitan Hilarion also said he is hoping Justin Welby will firmly defend the traditional biblical understanding of marriage as a union between a man and a woman "to prevent secular society from forcing on the Church of England the recognition of some forms of cohabitation which were never considered marriage by Christian churches."
      Welby responded by saying he appreciates the comment, adding that the position of the Church of England on the issue of marriage is absolutely clear and it has recently confirmed that marriage is a life-long union between a man and a woman.


      Russian children's right ombudsman insists on prosecuting U.S. adoptive parents of Russian native Maxim Kuzmin
      RBTH, March 27, 2013

      Russian children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said that Russia intended to pursue prosecuting the adoptive parents of Russian native Maxim Kuzmin, adopted to the United States. An objective investigation into Maxim Kuzmin's death and the release of all documents will be the most important topic at the upcoming Russian-U.S. consultations initiated by the United States, Astakhov said. "Russia will also pursue prosecuting the adoptive parents for the boy's death," the press office of Astakhov quoted him on Wednesday as saying. Astakhov said he disapproved that documents related to the investigation of Maxim Kuzmin's death had not still been provided to the Russia Prosecutor's General Office and Investigative Committee but had been released to media. "It seems strange that the Texas prosecutor's office, which has not provided the documents to either the Russian side or the U.S. State Department via official channels (about what its employees have complained and referred to), suddenly releases them to media. Is it possible that in this tragic case of Russian boy Maxim's death, a public response is more important than an objective investigation?" Astakhov said.
      "Anyone can see the hasty and one-sided approach in the fact that documents have not been officially released, that collected evidence has not been enough to brings charges on the count of murder, that the investigation lasted three days instead of three weeks as promised and was completed hurriedly and that actions of the adoptive parents, who fed the child strong drugs and left two children unattended and with no help, have not received criminal and legal evaluations," Astakhov said. Astakhov said that in accordance with Texas law, leaving two children unattended, which resulted in a child's death, constituted a crime - "improper supervision of a minor, resulting in a child's death" and "violating parental responsibilities resulting in grave consequences." "A criminal case has to be opened even in this event," Astakhov added. Astakhov said that "serious legal and political decisions are necessary in the case of [Maxim] Kuzmin." "These questions have come to the level of intergovernmental relations and, unfortunately, baby boy Maxim has indeed become a victim of big-time politics. No one will know the true causes of his death most likely. But it is Russia's responsibility to pursue the truth and to provide safety of all adopted children, while the U.S. responsibilities are to guarantee safety of our children and objective, in-depth and exhaustive investigation of children's deaths," the press office quoted Astakhov. Texas's Odessa American website, citing the autopsy report on Maxim Kuzmin obtained by reporters, posted on Wednesday that over 30 bruises as well as numerous abrasions, scratches and scars were found on the boy's body.


      Human Rights Council members doubt checks of non-profit entities relate to fight against extremism
      Interfax, 28 March, 2013

      MOSCOW (Interfax) - Prosecutors inspecting non-profit organizations are performing unusual duties, which are virtually repressive, a member of Russia's Presidential Human Rights Council and board member of Memorial international society, Sergei Krivenko, said.
      "We tried to draw an analogy with the current unprecedented inspections in Memorial - nothing like that has happened in the past 25 years. The only analogy was in 1929 when all religious organizations were checked and closed in just a year. There is also the campaign of 1937-1938 when all foreign organizations, foreign clubs and everything with a mere notion of a foreign entity was closed in these two years," Krivenko said at a news conference in the head office of Interfax on Thursday.
      "All this is very sad because instead of performing law enforcement functions, the prosecutor's office is being used as a kind of a repressive machine. In a sense this can be called repression," Krivenko said.
      Another member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, Pavel Chikov, said he doubted that the prosecutors' inspections of non-profit organizations were related to the law on fighting extremism.
      "The whole story began around February 20, when the Russian Prosecutor's General Office ordered prosecutors from the 83 Russian subjects to inspect public and religious entities and other non-profit organizations. This was arranged in the framework of the law on fighting against extremism. While in reality in most cases inspections are in no way related to extremism," Chikov said.
      "There are currently reports from 25 regions that around one hundred non-profit organizations are being checked," Chikov said.
      "The focus is on human rights and environmental organizations. Environmentalists are being inspected throughout the country - from St. Petersburg to Kamchatka, where offices of the World Wide Fund for Nature work," he said.
      Tax and prosecution officials arrived at the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch (HRW) at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Rachel Denber, deputy director of HRW's Europe and Central Asia Division, told Interfax.
      A wave of inspections of non-governmental organizations in Russia is underway, and HRW is among those being inspected, she said.
      Denber described the inspections as pressure on civil society, which cannot be perceived otherwise.
      Interfax has yet to obtain official commentaries from law enforcement regarding the inspection of HRW's Moscow office.
      Earlier this week, prosecutors, the Justice Ministry and tax authorities carried out inspections at the Russian offices of Amnesty International, the movement For Human Rights, the Memorial society, and the Public Verdict foundation. Rights activists said the inspections were apparently related to the law on NGOs acting as "foreign agents," which took effect in Russia on November 21, 2012.
      The law obliges NGOs fully or partially financed from abroad to be registered as "foreign agents."


      Extremist books sold at Turkish clothes shop in Perm
      Interfax-Religion, March 28, 2013

      Perm, March 28, Interfax - The Federal Security Service and prosecutors have found extremist books at a Turkish clothes shop in Perm.
      "The owner and an assistant of the Barakyat - Clothes from Turkey shop were freely selling Islamic books branded extremist by the Orenburg Leninsky District Court on March 21, 2012, and included in the Justice Ministry's federal list of extremist materials," the Perm territorial prosecutor's office reported.
      A conspiracy manual with quotes from the Koran and the Sunnah were on sale, too.
      The outlawed books were confiscated and administrative charges were brought against the shop owner under Article 20.29 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offenses (distribution of extremist materials).
      The Perm Sverdlovsk District Court will hear the case.


      Russia begins large-scale exercises in Black sea area
      ITAR-TASS, March 29, 2013

      On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin ordered Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to begin large-scale exercises in the Black Sea area. During three days the Russian military will conduct several dozen manoeuvres, including many-kilometre battle marches, as well as life firing battle drills at the Rayevsky, Temryuk and Opuk ranges. Despite the fact that Moscow is not under the obligation to notify foreign partners of them the sudden Russian exercises have evoked a negative reaction. Sources of the Kommersant daily in NATO said: "Partners do not do such things." And Ukrainian parliamentarians even decided to check how the Russian Black Sea Fleet complies with the "framework agreements."
      According to a source of the Kommersant newspaper in the RF General Staff, the principal decision to conduct the exercise was taken last weekend. "But its final timeframe, date and place were chosen personally by the president."
      RF president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Russia did not notify its foreign partners of the beginning war games, because their land part will involve exactly 7 thousand personnel. The newspaper recalls that in accordance with the Vienna Document of 2011 on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures, the OSCE Member States shall at least 42 days in advance inform the foreign partners about ground exercises, if they involve more than 9 thousand personnel, 250 battle tanks, 550 armoured combat vehicle or 250 self-propelled and towed artillery pieces, mortars and multiple rocket launchers (100-mm calibre and larger). And as for naval exercises, Senior Vice President of PIR Centre Yevgeny Buzhinsky told the Kommersant daily, "they are even not covered at all by any agreements on confidence-building measures." According to the expert, Russia has repeatedly proposed to the Western partners to include such exercises in the category of mandatory notification, but the United States and other Western countries were against this referring to the "inviolability of the principle of freedom of navigation."
      Despite this, the news of the unscheduled large-scale military exercises near the Black Sea was taken abroad with bewilderment. A senior diplomatic source in a NATO member state told the Kommersant daily that "although from a formal point of view Russia is probably right, but all the same partners should not act like this." "NATO member states always try in advance to inform Moscow about upcoming manoeuvres, once we have agreed to strengthen mutual trust and transparency," insists a diplomatic source of the newspaper in one of the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance.
      "The Russian Federation acts entirely within the international law norms. And in this case it is the absolutely sovereign right of any country - to conduct such military exercises in a scheduled or unscheduled mode," the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper quoted Dmitry Peskov as saying.


      Russia Needs Standard Approach to Teaching History - Putin
      RIA Novosti, March 29, 2013

      ROSTOV-ON-DON -¬ President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia needs a unified, standard approach to teaching history.
      "I fully agree that there should be a canonical version of our history," Putin said Friday while meeting with his campaigners from the All-Russia People's Front.
      He acknowledged that there are different opinions concerning history textbooks in high schools, with some saying there should be a single standard in the viewpoint adopted when teaching Russian history, while others insist on the opposite.
      "It might seem strange, but I agree with both of them. And these points of view can be reconciled," Putin said, adding that in his opinion, there should be one overall perspective adhered to in the textbook, but that teachers should then explore different views on the same events and teach pupils to think for themselves.
      Russian schools currently use a variety of history textbooks, which may contain various interpretations of the same events, especially those related to the Soviet era and the history of republics populated by non-Russian ethnic groups that were not always part of the country.


      Russia should organize "union of Eurasian states" - member of United Russia top brass
      Interfax, March 30, 2013

      ST. PETERSBURG - One of the leaders of the ruling United Russia party insisted on Saturday that Russia come up with an initiative for "a political union of Eurasian states" and argued that this would make Russia "one of the world leaders."
      "Russia can and must put forward such a strategic, systemic Eurasian project. It is the duty of Russia to position itself as one of the world leaders in building global systemic spaces," Yury Shuvalov, a member of United Russia's governing body and the chief public relations and press officer of the State Duma, told a conference in St. Petersburg entitled "Eurasian Integration As a Road to a Eurasian Union."
      "This does not mean encouraging any great-power ambitions," he said. "The reason for such positioning on the part of Russia is its historical experience, which has made it possible to build a multireligious and multiethnic civilization." "In order to preserve Russia, its global role must become the core of a state construction strategy," Shuvalov said. "A political union of Eurasian states would be a system-building environment that would be the basis for making the best use of the political, administrative and economic potential of the union, including for withstanding pressures from any destructive processes or forces," he said.
      "The geographic position of Russia and its resources would make it possible not only to create the main part of the economic infrastructure of Eurasia - its transportation arteries and energy basis - but also to largely solve problems of food security of the Eurasian continent," Shuvalov said.


      Human Rights Council wants to discuss NGO checks with Russian Prosecutor General
      Interfax, March 28, 2013

      Russia's Presidential Human Rights Council is expecting Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to explain the purposes of numerous inspections of non-governmental organizations (NGO) at the upcoming session of the council in April.
      "We have asked the Prosecutor General to participate in the council meeting so that representatives of the Prosecutor's General Office can report the results of these inspections. I hope that we will see such a report in April and will be able to discuss it," Human Rights Council Chairman Mikhail Fedotov said at a news conference at the head office of Interfax on Thursday.
      Fedotov said that the goal of NGO check was not quite explicable.
      "We wanted to send a statement to the Prosecutor's General Office since these are prosecutor's inspections. But in many cases employees of other regulatory authorities were involved. Which is possible, from the one hand, but from the other, the question "why?" raises," Fedotov said.
      Fedotov said that the council had received prosecutors' documents from Russian regions saying that inspections were held in an attempt to determine how NGO were following the law on the fight against extremism.
      Tax and prosecution officials arrived at the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch (HRW) at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Rachel Denber, deputy director of HRW's Europe and Central Asia Division, told Interfax.
      A wave of inspections of non-governmental organizations in Russia is underway, and HRW is among those being inspected, she said.
      Denber described the inspections as pressure on civil society, which cannot be perceived otherwise.
      Interfax has yet to obtain official commentaries from law enforcement regarding the inspection of HRW's Moscow office.
      Earlier this week, prosecutors, the Justice Ministry and tax authorities carried out inspections at the Russian offices of Amnesty International, the movement For Human Rights, the Memorial society, and the Public Verdict foundation. Rights activists said the inspections were apparently related to the law on NGOs acting as "foreign agents," which took effect in Russia on November 21, 2012.
      The law obliges NGOs fully or partially financed from abroad to be registered as "foreign agents."
      The Justice Ministry said on March 25 that the NGOs were being inspected to reveal such "foreign agents." Justice Ministry officials have been engaged in the inspections, it said. "The inspections are aimed at examining the non-governmental organizations' activities within the Justice Ministry's jurisdiction," it said.


      Moscow irritated by Washington's comments on inspections at Russian NGOs
      RBTH, March 30, 2013

      Moscow views Washington's commentary on inspections at Russian non-governmental organizations as interference in Russia's internal affairs. "We view U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Victoria Nuland's statement to the effect that the U.S. intends to continue to finance certain NGOs in Russia through mediators in third countries in circumvention of Russian law as undisguised interference in our internal affairs," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Saturday. "In fact, the matter implies direct instigation of well-known non-governmental and civil-society organizations to violate legal norms concerning activity of non-governmental organizations on the Russian Federation's territory," Lukashevich said in a statement available on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.
      "Nuland's remarks comparing routine inspections of NGOs to witch-hunt cannot be called other than cynical and provocative. We understand the reasons of such inadequate reaction caused by the blockage of channels of financial support of structures 'friendly' to Washington after the closure of the U.S. Agency for International Development's office in Russia and the imposition of a ban on financing political activities from abroad," he said. "There should be no doubt: attempts to influence internal processes and development of civil society in our country from the outside are doomed to failure," Lukashevich said.



      The Cossacks Are Back. May the Hills Tremble.
      By Ellen Barry
      The New York Times, March 16, 2013

      STAVROPOL, Russia - Outside this city's police headquarters on a recent night, a priest in a purple velvet hat and gold stole moved from one man to the next, offering a cross to be kissed and drenching their faces with holy water from a long brush.
      And so began another night of law enforcement as Cossacks, the fierce horsemen who once secured the frontier for the Russian empire, marched out to join the police patrolling the city.
      In his third term, President Vladimir V. Putin has offered one clear new direction for the country: the development of a conservative, nationalist ideology. Cossacks have emerged as a kind of mascot, with growing financial and political support.
      The Kremlin is dipping into a deep pool of history: Cossacks are revered here for their bravery and pre-modern code of honor, like cowboys in the United States or samurai in Japan. But their legacy is bound up with battle and vigilante-style violence, including campaigns against Turks, Jews and Muslim highlanders.
      These days men in Cossack uniforms are making appearances all over Russia, carrying out blustery raids of art exhibits, museums and theaters as standard-bearers for a resurgent church. But here on Russia's southern flank, the Cossack revival is more than an idea. Regional leaders are granting them an increasing role in law enforcement, in some cases explicitly asking them to stem an influx of ethnic minorities, mainly Muslims from the Caucasus, into territory long dominated by Orthodox Slavs.
      "We've lived cheek to cheek with them, and sometimes we fought with them, and we probably understand them better than a Russian from Moscow," said Staff Capt. Vadim Stadnikov, head of security for the Terek Cossack Army, whose office displays a portrait of Czar Nicholas II. "They respect strength here."
      "With police it is a short conversation - you committed a crime, here's the punishment," he said. With Cossacks involved, he added, "There is a prophylactic effect, a kind of education. They come here. Take this group of young people. Explain to them the traditions of the Orthodox, Slavic, Cossack people of the city of Stavropol. What our rules are. How we live here."
      A series of violent episodes have underlined the potential for trouble in this incendiary and heavily armed part of Russia. This month, a Cossack chieftain was fatally shot trying to arrest a drunken man who had taken hostages in the neighboring region of Krasnodar. At the chieftain's funeral, Cossacks in crimson coats, carrying leather whips and sabers, streamed after a riderless horse, a sight that could have dated from the 16th century.
      Afterward, a top official said the time had come for the state to allow Cossack patrolmen to carry traumatic guns, nonlethal weapons that can inflict severe injuries at close range - a proposal that has been endorsed by the governors of Krasnodar and Stavropol.
      "Some human rights activists, some ill-wishers, talk a lot about whether it's necessary or not necessary," Nikolai A. Doluda, chieftain of the Kuban Cossack Army and a deputy to the governor, told Russian television. "This terrible, frightening event underlines the fact that it is necessary."
      Historians still argue about who the Cossacks were - descendants of escaped serfs or Tatar warriors, an ethnic group in their own right or a caste of horsemen. They played a crucial role in colonizing the south for the Russian empire, and later turned on peasant and worker uprisings, defending the czar.
      The Bolsheviks nearly obliterated them, deporting tens of thousands in a process they called "de-Cossackization," but the image of the Cossack, wild and free, was a permanent part of the Russian imagination.
      When Tolstoy sat down to write his classic novel "The Cossacks," he set it near present-day Stavropol, where the Terek River divided the Muslim-populated mountains from the steppes, which were Cossack country. In a scene taught to generations of schoolchildren, a young Cossack spots a Chechen swimming across the Terek disguised as a log and shoots him.
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      The notion of an ethnic dividing line is widely accepted to this day, but it is running up against demography. Muslim ethnic groups in the Caucasus have a high birthrate, and Russians are abandoning the steppe. About 81 percent of Stavropol's population is ethnic Russian, but that share has been shrinking for decades, the International Crisis Group has reported.
      This rapid change is unsettling to ethnic Russians in Stavropol, who sometimes refer to the newcomers as "shepherds." Gennady A. Ganopenko, 42, said he grew up in a city so homogeneous that "the sound of a non-Russian language was grounds for a brawl."
      "Earlier, this was the gate to the Caucasus," he said. "We opened the gate, and then the gate came off the hinges."
      The Cossack revival seeks to slow this trend. Last summer,Aleksandr N. Tkachev, the governor of the Krasnodar region, to the west, took aim at his neighbors in the Stavropol region, saying so many Muslims had resettled there that Russians no longer felt at home. The region, he said, no longer served its traditional function as an ethnic "filter."
      To crack down on illegal migration, he announced the creation of a salaried force of 1,000 Cossack patrolmen, which - he explained in a speech to law enforcement officers - would not be restrained by the law as the police are. He put it this way: "What you cannot do, a Cossack can."
      Stavropol's leaders bridled at the speech, but it struck a chord with nationalists. Among them was Boris V. Pronin, chieftain of the Romanov-Cossacks, one of the many Cossack associations in Stavropol not officially registered with the government. Like many people in the region, he said youths from the Caucasus had begun to behave too freely in Stavropol.
      "It's as if I came to your house, slapped you in the face and said, 'Tonight, I'm going to sleep with your wife,' " he said in an interview.
      Mr. Pronin has bright blue eyes and the battered nose of a boxer, and he wears a handsome, traditional Cossack uniform. After an ethnic Russian man was stabbed in a brawl with Muslim youths from the Caucasus this winter, he lashed out at regional law enforcement for acting too slowly to detain his assailants. He advocates the creation of a Cossack guard unit with powers equivalent to those of the police, warning that immediate action is needed.
      "If a person has a cancer and metastasis has begun, if a professional doctor doesn't take care of this metastasis, he will die," he said. "It is the same with society. If there is already metastatic cancer on the territory of Stavropol region, one has to take appropriate preventive measures."
      The rise in official support for Cossacks is troubling to some Muslims, though their official representatives are careful about saying so. An exception was Zainudin Azizov, who, on a recent morning, barreled past herds of sheep and over acres of gray-brown steppe in a Mercedes S.U.V. while music wailed from its dashboard.
      "One class is turning out to be somehow privileged," he said of the Cossacks. "Why don't they support the whole Russian people? Why are they supporting only this small class?"
      Mr. Azizov represents Dagestani families who now dominate in villages at the far-eastern edge of the Stavropol region, and he is particularly irritated by a plan to grant free land in areas like his own to Cossack families being resettled, creating a kind of buffer zone of ethnic Russians. Nor does he like the idea of Cossack patrolmen receiving salaries from the state. While some of the local Cossacks are old friends, he said, others are "skinheads."
      "They join the Cossacks, but then they behave like nationalists," he said. "They have support from the region, from Moscow. They feel they can do anything they want, that tomorrow they will have protection."
      Indeed, the Cossacks who set out to patrol Stavropol on a recent night felt that they were part of a rising tide. Andrei Kovtun, 29, recalled the ribbing he got from his former colleagues in law enforcement when he first patrolled with the Cossacks, who do not have the right to demand documents, carry weapons or detain people.
      Still, on one of his early calls - separating two groups of brawling men - he understood that a Cossack's presence had a psychological effect. "Are you a cop?" someone asked him, and when he answered, the room went quiet. Mr. Kovtun understood why: Policemen are bound by the law.
      "A complaint cannot be made against a Cossack, and a Cossack cannot be fired," he said. "They know Cossacks are free, and will not think too much about how to take a violator to a police station, but will simply give him a whipping. This is what people are afraid of - that a Cossack will punish the culprit in the old, traditional but fair fashion."
      "However," he added hastily, "first we should always stop it by force of persuasion."


      The Russia-China Axis Grows
      By Ariel Cohen
      Frontpage Magazine, March 16, 2013

      China's new president Xi Jinping will make his first official foreign visit later this month. He will visit Russia, in a trip Chinese sources say "will improve relations and cement strategic partnership." Washington should pay attention to the strengthening ties between Moscow and Beijing. These giant neighbors have the longest shared land border in the world, and trade between the two nations is booming-at around $90 billion annually. Washington needs to do everything possible to prevent the emergence of a new Eurasian anti-American axis. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian and Chinese bilateral relations have vastly improved. Currently, both countries would like to displace what they call U.S. "hegemony," especially along their borders. Russia has repeatedly demanded that the U.S. pull out of the Manas air force base in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, it insists the U.S. ask for Moscow's approval before deploying any forces in Central Asia - even when they are needed to fight Islamist terrorism. China would like to keep the U.S. naval presence in Western Pacific in check. Russia's assertive foreign policy, with its anti-American propaganda overtones, seeks to establish a Russian "pole" in the global world order. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said that Xi's "upcoming visit is expected to add new impetus to the further development of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination." Translated from Chinese diplomatese, this means, "It is really, really important, but we won't tell you what they are going to talk about." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed his Chinese colleague's sentiment: Russia and China have united positions, and promote these united positions in negotiations, on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Syrian crisis, Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear program and other crises…. On all these cases, we and our Chinese friends are led by one and the same principle - the necessity to observe international law, respect UN procedures and not allow interference from outside in domestic conflicts and all the more the use of force. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which Moscow and Beijing founded, aims to fight "the three evils: separatism, extremism, and terrorism." There are enough secessionist areas to go around: Chechnya, Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan. Both countries want international support to keep their separatists in check. Sino-Russian cooperation is not just geopolitical but also ideological. Russia and China want to halt the spread of liberal democracy. This means keeping the U.S. out of their internal affairs, as well as those of regimes friendly to them. They believe that any government has a right to crack down on internal dissent or censure the press, including the Internet. With these principles in mind, they have worked in concert to check U.S. efforts in the Middle East and protect their own interests, such as legitimizing authoritarian regimes. They vetoed and stifled sanctions and internationally supported peace plans for Syria. They enabled Iran to continue its nuclear program by refusing to tighten sanctions. China, which is the principal supporter of North Korea, condemns even the possibility of military action against Pyongyang-and so does Russia. They increasingly present an alternative to Western-style democracy and are two stalwarts of the anti-US front, which also includes Iran and Venezuela. Russia and China are expanding their economic ties. The two countries have already moved to trade with each other using their own currencies-thus excluding the dollar. Moscow and Beijing have promised to increase trade dramatically over the next decade, and they are working on finalizing a deal on the most important sector of their bilateral trade: energy. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich is conducting negotiations in China on a natural gas deal, saying that a "significant breakthrough" has been made over the past few months. This gas pipeline will connect Russia's abundant gas reserves with China's ever-growing need for energy. The United States should work to prevent the Beijing-Moscow axis from taking root. After all, this was the main effort of the Nixon-Kissinger effort 40 years ago. China is making inroads in the Middle East and East Asia-two regions that remain pivotal to U.S. interests. China is using soft power to expand its influence along the Indian Ocean rim and in Africa. Chinese state-owned businesses are investing heavily in Afghan natural resources, and Beijing wields a great deal of influence in Pakistan. Russia is executing its own "pivot to Asia"-something Moscow highlighted when hosting the 24th APEC summit in Vladivostok last fall. Like China, Russia also has an island dispute of its own with Japan over the Kuril Islands. As Beijing takes a hard line with its quarrel, the two could join forces to exert pressure on Japan and lend international credibility to each other's territorial claims. Yet Russia is pursuing a rapprochement with Japan, Korea and Vietnam, indicating that it may be weary of the rising giant of China. A China-Russia partnership is championing a selective commitment to "noninterference in internal affairs." which plays well with the other authoritarian regimes around the world. They seek arms contracts and economic ties while looking the other way on nations' human rights abuses. However, as China continues to expand its sphere of influence through military, economic, smart, and soft power, Russia may become its junior partner in international affairs. China's rapid economic rise, including in Central Asia, and Beijing's desire for an enhanced global position could spell trouble for the Sino-Russian relationship down the road. Russia's economy is lagging behind China, and Moscow could easily turn into a natural resource appendage for Beijing. Further, densely populated Chinese provinces border the sparsely populated Russian Far East, provoking fear in Moscow that Chinese immigrants will come to dominate a large part of Siberia. Today, Russia blames the U.S. for its "time of troubles" in the 1990s, when a weak and corrupt central government presided over the economic slump and inflation. Moreover, Moscow is increasingly rejecting "Western values" such as same-sex marriages. Nostalgic for the empire gone, Russian post-Soviet elites blame the U.S. for "orange revolutions" such as in Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004), and meddling into its "near abroad," including NATO enlargement. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, while supported by Russia, troubled Moscow and Beijing. China sees the "pivot to Asia" as containment policy. For now, mutual geopolitical and economic interests are drawing Russia and China together into a partnership of convenience. Xi's first visit sends the clear message that China seeks to cement closer ties with its neighbors-and not with the U.S. Henry Kissinger's postulate that a Russia-China axis is not in U.S. national security interests still stands. Washington should plan its policy accordingly.


      Vladimir Putin and the holy land. Warmer relations with Israel do not stop Russia backing Syria and Iran
      The Economist, March 16th 2013

      RECENTLY Vladimir Putin took officials to Moscow's lavish new Jewish museum for a meeting on inter-ethnic relations. After a kosher breakfast and a short tour with Hasidic rabbis, he enthused that even Israel did not have anything on this scale. Mr Putin, the first Russian leader to visit Israel (twice), could hardly have shown more enthusiasm for the Jewish state. Yet Russia continues to vote with the Palestinians at the United Nations, to invite Hamas to Moscow, to help Iran with its nuclear programme and to sell missiles to Syria, which then end up in the hands of Lebanon's Hezbollah. In truth, a degree of disconnect has marked Russia's relations with Israel ever since its foundation in 1948. Stalin supported and armed Israel, hoping to use it as an ally against Britain and America, yet he still murdered Jewish anti-fascist leaders at home and made anti-Semitism into a state policy. After the six-day war in 1967 Moscow cut diplomatic ties with Israel and in the subsequent war of attrition it not only armed and trained Arab forces but also secretly sent in air-force squadrons. A heavy use of Russian missiles by Syria and Egypt in the Yom Kippur war in 1973 made Israel realise that "Russian equipment could temporarily overwhelm us," in the words of Efraim Halevy, a former head of Mossad, Israel's security service. When Mikhail Gorbachev renewed diplomatic ties with Israel in 1991, the Soviet Union was near collapse. But as Russia became assertive under Mr Putin a decade later, a return to the Middle East was only a matter of time, says Tatyana Karasova, an analyst of Russia-Israel relations. The motives were pragmatism and money. Israel's sympathy for Russia's war in Chechnya in 1999 made it a natural ally. But demand for Russian arms from its former Arab clients made them an irresistible market. Officially, Moscow maintains its support for Palestinians. Yet on a personal level Mr Putin seems to admire Israel's ruthlessness in dealing with its enemies and particularly its tough stance when talking to its biggest friend, America, illustrated by recent tension between President Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister. Alexander Shumilin of the Institute of USA and Canada, a think-tank, says Russia's duality reveals a lack of a clear strategy, an aversion to complexities and a preference for ad-hoc decisions. Mr Putin's feelings for Israel were enhanced by his passionate interest in the Holy Land. Israel obliged him when it agreed in 2008 to transfer back to Russia an area in Jerusalem called the Sergei courtyard, part of the Russian compound that had belonged to Moscow patriarchy and was sold in 1964 for a load of oranges. The Israelis also halted military supplies to Georgia after the 2008 war. In turn, the Kremlin promised not to sell an S-300 air-defence system directly to Iran. Zvi Magen, a former Israeli ambassador to Moscow, says that since Mr Putin returned as Russia's president last year bilateral relations have been better than ever. One reason was Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's Soviet-born former foreign minister (now on trial in Israel on charges of breach of trust). Three days after the rigged Duma election in late 2011, Mr Lieberman was the first foreign politician to congratulate Mr Putin on his party's victory, saying that his observers had spotted no violations. Mr Lieberman always had a strong following among the influential Russian diaspora in Israel. Mr Putin's freedom from anti-Semitism-ingrained in many of his former KGB colleagues-also won him favours with Jewish leaders in Russia. Yet Maksim Shevchenko, an anti-Israel commentator, argues that Russia's relations with Israel must not jeopardise its support for the anti-American coalition that includes Iran and Syria. He describes the civil war in Syria as a proxy conflict between NATO and Saudi Arabia on one side and Russia and Iran on the other. Despite some attempts by Russian diplomats to make contact with the Syrian opposition, defending Bashar Assad's regime remains a priority for the Kremlin-not least as part of its anti-Americanism at home. Speaking to military and civilian officials led by Mr Putin last month, Russia's defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, confirmed plans for a permanent military naval flotilla in the Mediterranean to "protect Russian national interests". Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian military analyst, says that it is also likely that Syria will get an S-300 air-defence system against possible air strikes. Russian officials argue that keeping Mr Assad in office is good for Israel. His fall would almost certainly result in the rise of Islamic fundamentalists in Syria. Mr Shevchenko concludes: "It does not hurt having a good relationship with Israel, even if its creation was Stalin's big mistake." Israelis could be forgiven for finding Mr Shevchenko's generosity rather unsettling.


      How to talk to children about Joseph Stalin
      By Alexandra Guzeva
      RBTH March 16, 2013

      The first children's book about Stalin, "Breaking Stalin's Nose," has been released, almost sixty years to the day since the dictator's death. Are Russians ready to discuss this period of their country's past with their children? Russian émigré author Eugene Yelchin's "Breaking Stalin's Nose" has appeared in Russian on the eve of the 60th anniversary of Stalin's death. The book pulls no punches about the atrocities of the Stalin era, and was awarded the Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children in 2012. The book's main character is a boy named Sasha who worships his father - an NKVD officer arrested by his own colleagues in the secret police. The neighbors force him out of the communal apartment, so Sasha goes to live with his aunt. But she turns him away, fearing arrest for being connected with a son of an "enemy of the people." At school, the other children are encouraged to inform on each other by their teacher. The book tells of the endless arrests, the long waits to visit family members being held as political prisoners, and the grind of everyday life. Yelchin is first and foremost an illustrator, and he provided his own black-and-white retro-style pencil drawings - in a comic style - for the text. There is a long tradition of Soviet-era literature, but this is the first attempt to talk to kids about what really happened in their own country. It's unsurprising, then, that the book's publication in Russia has been accompanied by a great deal of discussion. It turns out that a novel that explains what "communal apartments" and "Young Pioneer's neck scarves" were - or indeed, who the "Young Pioneers" were - is something Russian kids needed just as much as American kids. But the question is: at what age can we start to talk to children about Stalin and the Red Terror? And where do we begin? This question has occupied the parents of those children who have already read the book, published by Pink Giraffe. Their reviews and comments suggest that children aged seven years and younger are too young to deal with this theme - but leaving it until 14 is too late. By the time they are 14, teenagers are already able to read the serious literature - Shalamov and Solzhenitsyn, or Ginzburg's "Journey into the Whirlwind." The young hero of "Breaking Stalin's Nose" is eleven years old - the ideal age at which to read the book. History teachers generally agree that children should be told about Stalin at this age. "It's best to introduce the topic of the Red Terror to children when they are around nine or ten, and of course in a format they can deal with - not later than that, and probably not earlier," said well-known historian and Honored Teacher of the Russian Federation Leonid Katsva. Yelena Lobanova-Goldstein, Deputy Director of Kiev Central Library Network, said that the book "provides an ideal prompt to broach the topic of the Red Terror of the 1930s and 1940s with your child." Even so, experts agree that simply trusting the topic of Stalin to modern parents may not be the best idea. According to Russian Public Opinion Center statistics, 27 percent of the population has a high opinion of Stalin, 6 percent rate him as a sympathetic figure, while 3 percent admire him. Thirty percent of respondents said that they were indifferent to him. "It's pointless to entrust this kind of conversation to families and parents, because they are part of a generation that has not read about Stalin, does not care, or even takes a pro-Stalinist standpoint," said Irina Shcherbakova, a representative of the Memorial Society, an historical and human rights organization whose aims include documenting events of the Repression era. "It's a fact that many people associate Stalin with the victory in World War II, 'industrial accomplishments' and the 'strict order' that he brought to the country," she added. "We really don't need any kind of relativism when it comes to Stalin - saying that there were 'good things about his administration too.' We need to proceed from the basis that Stalin was thoroughly evil, just like Hitler, incapable of justification," said Leonid Katsva. Irina Shcherbakova confirms this view, noting that "Germans can discuss the process of history more easily, because they don't have a positive way of looking at it. In addition to this, Germany has a well-established conversation-point about Hitler - 'The Diary of a Young Girl' by Anne Frank." Yet the question remains about how to introduce books about Russia's political repression to children. Reactions from children who have already read Breaking Stalin's Nose have been nearly unanimous - the children were scared, and fearfully asked their parents "why the evil NKVD operatives had done it all?" The book prompted some anxiety in children when thinking about these events. However, Kommersant publishing house critic Anna Narinskaya believes that the author's intentions in the book remain unrealised. After the grim events of the arrest a phantasmagoria begins about how the nose fell off Stalin's statue, and began to live a life of its own. Yet real life returns once more, and this discontinuity might prove tricky for young readers. Moreover, the book lacks even a single positive character, both among the boy's neighbours and his classmates. It creates a depressing atmosphere - in a book intended for children. "Children need either complete fantasy, like the books of Daniil Kharms, or complete reality and involvement, like Ginzburg's Journey into the Whirlwind," Shcherbakova adds. The well-known poet Lev Rubinstein wrote a review of the book, which appears on the cover of the Russian edition. "To create a book about the most agonising and haunting episodes of our own history - and to make it attractive, in uncomplicated language that even kids can read - is a task which, to be honest, very few people could manage," Rubinstein wrote. "But the author of this book has achieved that task." Perhaps not everyone will agree that the author of this book has fully managed it - but it is, at least, a good start.


      Russia's indigenous languages at risk of dying out
      By Dmitry Sukhodolsky
      RBTH, March 17, 2013

      Around 250 languages are spoken in Russia, including Russian, which is spoken by some 150 million people. Russian, along with several Turkic-based languages, is doing fine. However, the linguistic situation for many lost tribes and Small Indigenous People in Russia is far more uncertain.
      Russia's many languages are the same kind of impenetrable mystery for the country as the ever-discussed topic of the "Russian soul." Russian itself is fairly mysterious, considering the time over which it developed.
      From the first appearance of prose works that were not mere copies of Western models (Nikolai Karamzin in the late 18th century) to the appearance of the first experimental writings of the 1920s (such as Velimir Khlebnikov), there is only just over a century.
      Within that feverishly busy century the works of Tolstoy, Chekhov and many others appeared. Not even America saw that kind of development, even though they had the whole corpus of English literature to start from.
      The outlook is good for the Russian language- it appears in vast numbers of publications, it is diligently studied, it is taught abroad, and it is continuously developing. A similar situation is found for the languages of Russia's more numerous ethnic groups - Tatar, Bashkir, Chuvash and Yakut - which all happen to be Turkic-group languages.
      Even this last group, Yakut, has more than 1.5 million speakers scattered over one of Russia's largest regions, Yakutia (1.1 million square miles), and the language is not endangered.
      Books come out in Yakut, they teach Yakut in schools and colleges, there is a Yakut-speaking mass media and artistic culture, and it is studied by linguists and ethnologists.
      This is all in dramatic contrast to the situation for languages of Russia's Small Indigenous Peoples (a term recognized in United Nations documentation). In fact, such languages are dying out all over the world, and not only in Russia.
      In most cases, the cause is not bureaucratic neglect or chauvinism, but harsh environmental conditions - Russia is no exception.
      Russia is a sub-polar country in which huge tracts of land are covered by barely traversable taiga and tundra - like the Amazon jungles, but with the added factor of fierce cold. "Lost tribes" eke out their subsistence in these empty wastelands, from the northern Saami to the southeastern Udegei.
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