Bulletin 3:4 (2009)
- THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN
A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
Vol. 3, No. 4(46), 3 March 2009
Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland
I NEWS: 16 28 February 2009
II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
III PRIMARY SOURCES
IV ANNOTATIONS OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS
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I NEWS: 16 28 February 2009
Patriarch Kirill will stand against autocephaly of the Ukrainian
Orthodox Church expert
Interfax-Religion, February 16, 2009
Kiev, February 16, Interfax President of the Ukrainian Association
of religious freedom Viktor Yelensky believes the new primate of the
Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill would stand against
autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church and even strengthen the Moscow
"The Moscow Patriarch is devoted to the idea of great Russia.
Evidently, he wants to be Church Putin. Thus, I believe, he won't take
any steps to let the Ukrainian Church go from the Moscow
Patriarchate," Yelensky said on Monday on air of Deutsche Welle in
He is convinced that political Ukraine-Russia relations will be
projected to the church ones, and frequent Ukrainian political crises
will be no good for the "Kiev Patriarchate."
According to the expert, the Moscow Patriarchate is going to
intensify missionary activities in Ukraine and actively work with
Russian senator suggests creating federal religious TV channel and
guard Internet from immorality
Interfax-Religion, February 16, 2009
Moscow, February 16, Interfax Vice Speaker of the Federation Council
Alexander Torshin supported the idea of establishing the Public
Council on Morality at the television and backed up the federal
religious TV channel.
"It should be done because our opponents have tactical superiority at
the screen," he said on Sunday at the opening ceremony of the 17th
Christmas readings in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
Addressing the participants, the senator expressed his concerns with
spreading immorality, in particular in Internet, and urged to think
how to protect children and teens.
"They always scare us with censure," Torshin said and expressed the
opinion that the elder generation should guard young people from
pornography and other challenges to children souls.
The Vice Speaker also urged to practice consultations with
traditional religious organizations of Russia when adopting important
draft laws and stressed that "norms of secular law shouldn't be immoral."
Unidentified delinquents burnt down an Orthodox church in Sakhalin
Interfax-Religion, February 16, 2009
Yuzhno-Sakhalisnk, February 16, Interfax On Sunday night Orthodox
Church was burnt in the village of Yasnoye, the Tymovo District, the
"Local residents, who live near the church, saw the church on fire at
two a.m." Parochial Rector Fr. Konstantin told Interfax.
According to the priest, officials of the Fire Safety Authority and
Regional Department of Internal Affairs came to the site and suggested
it was an arson.
The Rector doesn't exclude a possibility that representatives of
neo-pentecostal sect, who have recently become active in the Tymovo
District, were involved.
He said he had thrice turned to the police and pointed out to the
facts of sectarians' illegal agitation in children educational
institutions of the district.
Russian Patriarch calls for powerful Orthodox youth movement
Interfax-Religion, February 16, 2009
Moscow, February 16, Interfax - The new Patriarch of Moscow called for
creating a powerful Orthodox youth movement in Russia which would have
a grassroots group in "each of our educational institutions."
"I would be happy if you and I could start a congress at Luzhniki [a
stadium in Moscow] with 100,000 young people present. But we have to
work very well for such a congress to become a reality," Patriarch
Kirill said at a meeting in Moscow with Orthodox youth.
He urged the clergy to "build up work with youth at parish, deanery,
diocese level," but it should be the main task, he said, to train both
clergy and laity to work with youth.
"We should build a network for youth work. We should have a
grassroots group, organization, in each of our educational
institutions. How can one engage in Christian work among youth if a
college has no youth organization of its own?" Kirill said.
Russia is "an open society, where all this is permissible, feasible,"
"We should consolidate our ranks at this grassroots level, where
youth congresses would bring together tens of thousands of people and
would not be a lot of window dressing or a television show but a
genuine manifestation of our work, of what is happening in Church and
society," the Patriarch said.
MVD Official Compares Extremism to Terrorism
UCSJ, February 17, 2009
In an interview with the Rosbalt news agency published on February 11,
2009, Evgeny Shkolov, deputy minister of the MVD, stated that "crimes
of an extremist nature" in Moscow were up 30% in 2008 compared to the
previous year. "The new year has barely begun, and already in Moscow
14 crimes based on ethnic grounds have been committed," he said.
Police took "counter-measures" last month that resulted in over a
dozen arrests of extremist gang members who attacked non-Russians in
the city, the deputy minister said.
Mr. Shkolov then went on to summarize the situation in stark terms:
"Extremism is becoming a serious social phenomenon that has the same
destructive potential, in some ways, as the terrorist threat. A
radicalization of the youth is taking place. Football hooligans and
various fascistic gangs are gaining strength. Attacks on people with a
non-Slavic appearance continue."
As usual with Russian police terminology, the term extremism was left
broadly defined by both officials. In the past, the government has
labeled groups as diverse as neo-Nazi gangs, Islamic fundamentalists,
Chechen separatists, and peaceful anti-government political
organizations "extremist" making it difficult to judge the exact
meaning of these and other statistics. What is clear, however, is
that inter-ethnic violence is getting worse, and that certain
government officials, at least, are becoming more open to speaking
about it publicly than in the past.
Tula ROC Diocese Attacks "Sectarian" Anti-AIDS Initiative
UCSJ, February 17th, 2009
The secretary of the missionary department of the Tula diocese of the
Russian Orthodox Church blasted an educational program aimed at
reducing AIDS infections among the local youth, claiming that it has
links to minority Christians, or as he put it "sects." According to a
February 6, 2008 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center,
Aleksey Yarasov, who in the past has accused minority Christians of
being tools of foreign intelligence services, wants the "Youth at a
Crossroads" program banned from schools, because of its links to
Protestant religious groups, and its purported goals of "instilling
the Protestant values common in the US" among Russian youths. While
it's possible that this program violates the Russian Constitution's
separation of church and state, Mr. Yarasov's claim that it should
therefore be banned as unconstitutional is rich in irony, since the
ROC has worked with schools in several regions to include its theology
in both elective and in some cases mandatory courses.
Racist Stabbing in Moscow
UCSJ, February 17th, 2009
A passenger on a mini-bus stabbed a Congolese embassy worker,
according to a February 8, 2008 article in the national daily
"Moskovsky Komsomolets." The victim was traveling with a co-worker,
also from Congo, when they were accosted on the mini-bus by a drunken
man who demanded that they speak Russian rather than French. He
waited for the bus to stop before pulling out a knife and stabbing one
of the men in the chest. Police and medical workers came to the scene
and the victim was taken to a hospital. No arrests have been reported
in connection with the attack.
Russian Church should be as influential as Vatican expert
Interfax-Religion, February 17, 2009
Moscow, February 17, Interfax One of the new Patriarch of Moscow and
new Russia tasks should be turning the Russian Church in an
organization as effective as Vatican, Head of the Ukraine branch of
the CIS-countries Institute Kirill Frolov believes.
"When we say that the Russian Orthodox Church should be as
influential as Vatican, it's quite normal not only in quality,
intellect and spirit, but in quantity as well," he said at a round
table on Monday.
Frolov, who is also the head of the Moscow branch of the Union of
Orthodox citizens, reminded that there's about a billion Catholics.
"We have every right to say that we need our Orthodox billion," the
According to him, such quantitative indicator is possible "only with
demographic revenge of Russian people and active Orthodox missionary
work." "Conservative Christians of the West, who face Protestant
crisis with its degeneration blessing of homosexual marriages and
women priests", can constitute the other part of the "Orthodox billion".
"In this context I oppose the Russian Church walking out of the World
Council of Churches as it gives a great missionary platform," Frolov said.
Neo-Nazis Target Jehovah's Witnesses in Petrozavodsk
UCSJ, February 18th, 2009
A neo-Nazi gang in Petrozavodsk, Russia targeted a Jehovah's Witnesses
prayer hall, according to a February 17, 2009 report by the Sova
Information-Analytical Center. On February 13, the extremists smashed
windows and painted graffiti and death threats on the walls of the
prayer hall. They also exploded some kind of small bomb. Luckily,
nobody was injured. The Jehovah's Witnesses complained to the police,
and stated that this wasn't the first such incident affecting their
Far-Right Activist Sentenced to Prison for Racist Leaflets
UCSJ, February 18th, 2009
A court sentenced the head of a far-right organization in Yakutsk,
Russia (Sakha Republic) to two years in prison for inciting ethnic
hatred, according to a February 17, 2009 report by the Jewish.ru web
site. The defendant, identified in the report only by his surname
Yurkov, is one of the few people to ever face real prison time, rather
than a suspended sentence, for violating laws prohibiting incitement
of ethnic hatred. He heads the local chapter of the Movement Against
Illegal Immigration, which has been linked to race riots across
Russia. The leaflets reportedly targeted Chinese migrants.
The famous missionary urges to make Kirghizia a base for "offensive"
of Russian Church to Central Asia and China
Interfax-Religion, February 18, 2009
Moscow, February 18, Interfax - The famous missionary priest Fr.
Daniel Sysoyev considers that Russian Church should make Kirghizia and
neighbouring countries Orthodox.
"It's necessary to open theological faculties at Bishkek's State
University and at the Russian-Kirghiz Slavonic University to use
Kirghizia as a base for the whole Central Asia. Exactly from Kirghizia
it's possible to come (in missionary meaning - "IF") to the whole
Central Asia, Afghanistan, Tibet and China," Fr. Daniel told at the
round-table conference in Moscow.
According to him, "Kirghiz and also a part of Uzbeks, Dungarz, Uigurs
in Kirghizia are ready for Orthodox mission which could lead to
enormous successes: there are straight gate to China, but it's not used."
"In Central Asia, according to underestimated official data, there
are half a million Protestants which began to operate here only in
1992. At small activity of Protestants they've received a great
success. The activity of Catholics is successful. Missioners from
Uruguay made the whole diocese there in three years after the work
start," the priest told.
Antisemitic Vandalism in Yaroslavl, Russia
UCSJ, February 19th, 2009
Someone smashed a synagogue's window in Yaroslavl, Russia, according
to a February 18, 2009 report by the Jewish.ru news web site. Jewish
community leaders have reportedly decided not to report the incident
to the police, which is the latest in a series of attacks on the
synagogue. According to the report, every two months or so the
community has to replace a window, though the situation is better than
it was five years ago, when a fence was put in that now protects most
of the building after a particularly vicious attack ended with all the
synagogue's windows shattered. In 1996 antisemites bombed the
Racists Cut Off Migrant's Head
UCSJ, February 19th, 2009
Racists cut off the head of a migrant from Kyrgyzstan in Moscow,
according to a
February 17, 2009 report by the Rosbalt news agency. Four homeless men
allegedly attacked the victim because he was collecting bottles on
"their territory" and because they didn't like his "Asian features."
They allegedly waited till he was asleep and then cut off his head
with a knife. Police say that the suspects have confessed to the
crime. It is not clear from the report if they will be charged with a
hate crime in addition to the murder charges they already face.
Kemerovo Man Gets Suspended Sentence for Inciting Violence Against
Jews and Muslims
UCSJ, February 19th, 2009
A Kemerovo, Russia court sentenced a local man to a one year suspended
sentence for inciting violence against Jews and Muslims, according to
a February 18, 2009 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center.
According to the verdict, Vyacheslav Spitsyn posted articles on his
blog calling for "terrorist actions" and "acts of violence" against
Jews and Muslims, "up to the point of their physical annihilation."
Police searched his apartment on April 8 last year and found neo-Nazi
Dirty Election Tactics in Smolensk Characterizes Baptists as
UCSJ, February 20th, 2009
A mayor race in Smolensk, Russia spawned a dirty election tactic that
exploits and incites public animosity against local Baptists,
according to a February 13, 2008 report by the Slavic Law and Justice
Center, an NGO that works on religious freedom issues, primarily for
minority Christians in Russia. A fake campaign newsletter attributed
to a mythical local Baptist organization was distributed widely in the
city. The newsletter portrays Baptists, supposedly speaking in their
own words, endorsing one of the candidates, falsely identifying him as
a Baptist, and insulting the Russian Orthodox Church. Among the many
false words put into the mouths of Baptist community members are
assertions like: "The Orthodox faith has seriously discredited itself,
only Baptists can take control over the destiny of this country"; "It
would be very good if Baptists are represented in the government and
if we can get funds from the local budget"; and perhaps the most
inflammatory and misleading statement of all: "The Orthodox call us a
sect, but Baptists are not like that, despite all the scandals
involving Baptists in connection with pedophilia, bigamy, etc. Leave
Baptists alone to live life the way they want to live it." The Slavic
Center has called upon local law enforcement agencies to investigate
the incident as a violation of laws prohibiting the incitement of
ethnic or religious hatred.
EUROPE'S HUMAN RIGHTS COURT FOUND RUSSIA BREAKING ITS COMMITMENTS
Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 9, Number 8, February
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ordered Russia to
pay 7,000 euros ($9,030) to an American missionary expelled on
national security grounds in 2002, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported
on February 17. The court found that Russia had violated its
obligations to protect religious freedom when expelling Patrick Nolan
of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, his lawyers said. Living in
Russia for nearly eight years, Nolan was refused re-entry following a
short trip abroad, even though he had an entry visa and his
10-month-old child, of whom he was the sole custodial parent, remained
The court found that Russia was in breach of the European Convention
on Human Rights for separating Nolan from his infant son, imprisoning
him overnight at the airport upon his return from a trip to Cyprus,
deporting him before he could seek a review of his case, and refusing
to disclose a report by the Federal Security Service that served as
the basis for his expulsion.
Kremlin plans to hand over property to religious groups
RIA Novosti, February 24, 2009
MOSCOW, February 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russia plans to change the
ownership structure of property used by religious groups, a move that
could make the Orthodox Church a major real estate owner and cut
budget spending, a business daily said on Tuesday.
The bill drafted by the economics ministry proposes handing over
buildings, land plots and other property to religious organizations
that currently use them free of charge. The document also proposes
returning all church property seized by the Bolsheviks after the 1917
revolution, Kommersant reported.
Experts said the Russian Orthodox Church, the country's dominant
religion, could emerge as a major real estate owner, the paper said.
"Only [gas and railroad monopolies] Gazprom and Russian Railways
could then be compared with the Church [in terms of property
ownership]," Roman Cheptsov from Prime City Properties consultancy
told the daily. "In Moscow, for example, 1 hectare of land is worth
about $6-$7 million."
The economics ministry declined to comment on the bill, the paper
said. While drafting the document in 2007, however, the ministry said
it was aimed at removing the expense of maintaining religious
buildings from the federal budget.
An opposition Communist Party leader said the move was designed to
improve public trust in the Kremlin amid the ongoing financial crisis
and warned that ensuing commercial activity involving the property
could harm the mission of religious organizations, the paper said.
"Some clergy will want to engage in commerce, rent out premises and
land," Vladimir Kashin, also a lawmaker, told the daily. "We must
prevent extremes, or otherwise we will have gilded churches and
growing poverty and immorality."
Father Vladimir Vigilyansky, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchy,
said the Church would have to review its economic policies if the bill
was approved to support churches outside large cities, which may not
have sufficient funds to maintain or rebuild the buildings, the paper
In a separate interview on Tuesday, Vigilyansky said the Church has
often been returned virtually derelict monasteries and cathedrals, and
the state could help churches, especially those in remote regions,
Vigilyansky said the late Patriarch Alexy II had only allowed the
lease of auxiliary church premises on rare occasions to raise money
for reconstruction projects, Kommersant reported.
Since the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union, the Church
has regained the ownership of over 100 of 16,000 churches and
cathedrals, the paper said.
"If religious organizations become legitimate owners of their
property, they will be independent of the state, which will lose its
levers to influence on them," a senior Muslim cleric, Mufti Nafigulla
Ashirov, told the paper admitting that mosques would rent out extra
premises to support the Muslim community.
Rabbi Zinovy Kogan told the daily: "We will rent extra premises, but
will spend earnings on welfare projects, for example soup houses."
Kommersant said the bill would be discussed by a government
commission on religious organizations in March.
Neo-Nazis Attack Kyrgyz Migrants in Moscow
UCSJ, February 24th, 2009
A group of neo-Nazis attacked four Kyrgyz migrant workers in Moscow,
according to a February 24, 2009 report by the Jewish.ru web site. The
attack took place last Sunday, February 22. The migrants were able to
fight the extremists off, but not before sustaining injuries that
required hospitalization. Police are investigating the incident but
have so far made no arrests.
Russia will oppose attempts to justify Nazism, review history Medvedev
Interfax, February 24, 2009
MOSCOW. Feb 24 (Interfax) - Any attempts to justify Nazism are
unacceptable and will be opposed by Russia, Russian President Dmitry
"I am convinced that any attempts to justify Nazism and to defame the
heroic victors will lead to an unacceptable hypocritical review of
history. To the complete loss of its lessons. This will be resolutely
and coherently opposed by Russia," Medvedev said in his letter to Vera
Ganina, the mother of Russian man Dmitry Ganin who died during tragic
events in Tallinn in April 2007.
Excerpts from the president's letter to Ganina were issued by the
president's press office on Tuesday.
Medvedev expressed his support and deep sympathy to Ganina. "Millions
of Russians" share these feelings, he said. "The death of your son
during the dramatic events in April 2007 shocked us all," the
"Dmitry (Ganin) had a high sense of justice and openly protested the
blasphemous plan to relocate the war memorial commemorating the
soldiers who freed Europe from fascism. He rightly thought it was an
insult to their memory. Your son was defending not only the heroic
past. He stood up for the civil dignity of the people, who remember
those who gave their lives for peace on the planet," Medvedev said.
"We will firmly insist that all those responsible for the death of
Dmitry Ganin are found and brought to justice," the president said.
In her letter to Medvedev Ganina thanked him for the attention,
sympathy and concern for her family.
In April 2007 the Estonian authorities dismantled the Bronze Soldier
monument on the Tonismagi hill and moved it to the Tallinn military
cemetery. The move prompted mass disturbances, followed by clashes
with police, riots and the arson of shops and kiosks. Some 1,200
people were detained and dozens were injured during clashes with
police. Russian national Dmitry Ganin was killed.
Orthodox Church May Become One Of Largest Proprietors In Russia
Itar-Tass, February 24, 2009
MOSCOW, February 24 (Itar-Tass) -- The Economic Development Ministry
has drafted a bill which gives every religion registered in Russia the
right to own buildings, land and property, including that impounded by
the Bolsheviks. If the bill is approved, the Russian Orthodox Church
will be one of the largest proprietors in the country, and the
authorities will never have to support religious buildings, which is
important amid the financial turmoil.
All the religions welcome the initiative, while the public fears that
the Church may go in for business on one hand and appear to be unable
to support historical and architectural monuments on the other.
Representatives of the Economic Development Ministry did not deny in
2007 when the work on the prospective bill's concept started that the
document would stop budgetary allocations for Church buildings.
The draft law "On the Transfer of Religious Property to Religious
Organizations" cited by the newspaper Kommersant stipulates Church
ownership of religious buildings, land and movable property, which is
now being used gratis for an indefinite period. A supplementary note
to the bill says that the Church should regain all property impounded
after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Modern Russia has 234 monasteries, 244 nunneries, 16,000 parishes and
4,696 Sunday schools of the Orthodox Church. The Roman Catholic Church
has 220 parishes in Russia, and a third of them have no temples. There
are over 4,000 mosques and about 70 synagogues in Russia, as well. The
size of religious buildings varies from 5,000 to 50,000 square meters,
while Church land is from 0.3 to ten hectares in size.
The Church has become the owner of more than 100 temples in the past
15 years by order of executive authorities. The new bill is bound to
legalize this process.
If the bill is approved, the Church may become a leading private
owner in Russia, real estate agents say. "The only possible rivals of
the Church in that case would be Gazprom and Russian Railroads,"
Development Director of the Prime City Properties consulting company
Roman Cheptsov said. "In Moscow alone an average cost of one hectare
of land stands at approximately $6-7 million."
"A religious organization shall maintain religious property in an
appropriate condition, i.e. conduct current and major repairs and bear
all the maintenance expenses," the bill runs. The new owner will have
no right to change the focus of the acquired property or to transfer
it to third persons in the period of ten years.
The Church will also be unable to own particularly valuable monuments
and architectural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list (for
instance, the St. Basil Cathedral on Red Square or the Moscow Kremlin
cathedrals). In all, there are about 20 sites of the kind on the list.
However, the bill will enable religions to lease out their buildings
One should not fear Church commerce or a sharp growth of Church
revenues, Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Church External
Relations Department Bishop Mark of Yegoryevsk said as quoted by the
"Most of our parishes are located in the countryside. As for temples
in cities, where land is expensive, they are usually pretty tight and
have no vacant space for elementary needs, such as toilets, let alone
a parish building or a Sunday school," he said.
Meanwhile, Co-Chairman of the Russian Council of Muftis Mufti
Nafigulla Ashirov does not conceal that "the community will have a
so-called Waqf domain, which will be leased out for community benefit."
"We will lease out vacant space," Chairman of the Congress of Jewish
Religious Communities and Organizations of Russia Rabbi Zinovy Kogan
said. "The earned money will be spent on social projects, such as
canteens for the poor."
Religious organizations' ownership of their property "is a worldwide
norm," Deputy Chairman of the Russian Council of Muftis Damir
"There won't be an eruption of commerce" because traditional
religions use their churches, mosques and synagogues "only for
religious purposes," he said.
The massive return of property nationalized in the Soviet period to
religious organizations began in April 1993 with then President Boris
Yeltsin's ordinance "On the Transfer of Religious Buildings and Other
Property to Religious Organizations."
Believers will own not only real estate but also cultural values. In
2006-2007 then President Vladimir Putin personally handed over to the
Russian Orthodox Church the Icon of Our Lady of Smolensk and a
fragment of the Lord's Robe stored at the Moscow Kremlin. In December
2007 the Russian Orthodox Church regained all the relics stored in the
A number of museums are trying to impede the process. For instance,
the Tretyakov Gallery did not permit the Church to minister services
with the Holy Trinity Icon by Andrei Rublev in November 2008. The
museum administration said that the masterpiece created in the 15th
century might be damaged.
"Such masterpieces as icons, paintings and sculptures are stored at
museums all over the world. The Church is able to preserve them duly,"
Pushkin Fine Arts Museum Director Irina Antonova said.
Russian court upholds deportation of Chabad rabbi
THE JERUSALEM POST, February 25, 2009
A Russian court on Wednesday upheld the deportation of Chabad rabbi,
Yisroel Silberstein, rabbi of the Primorye region in Russia's far east.
According to a Federal Migration Service spokesman, the American
Silberstein, listed "cultural activities," in his visa application,
inconsistent with the religious work he was actually carrying out.
Director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, Alexander
Boroda expressed "outrage," at this decision which he said "targets
Jewish spiritual workers."
"This trend could significantly redraw the map of faith-based work in
Russia," he warned.
Ethnic and religious extremism in Russia should be eliminated
Medvedev 25, 2009
Moscow, February 25, Interfax - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has
called to cut short any action aimed at fomenting ethnic, religious
and social hatred and prosecute those guilty of this.
"In current conditions manifestations of extremism are particularly
dangerous. In many cases they are directly linked to attempts to
destabilize the situation in society," Medvedev told a meeting of the
board of the Russian Prosecutor's General Office on Wednesday.
The president reminded prosecutors that they "have the right to move
in courts to liquidate certain public and religious organizations and
suspend their activity before a court makes a decision."
Kemerovo Jewish Activists Denounce Publication of Antisemitic Article
UCSJ, February 26th, 2009
A Jewish academic and leaders of the Jewish community in Kemerovo,
Russia have publicly denounced the publication in a local newspaper of
a viciously antisemitic article. Vladimir Kaganov, a historian and
member of the Union of Writers, shared the content of his open letter
with UCSJ. On January 30, 2009 the local newspaper "Zemlyaki"
published an article by the journalists V. Popok which blamed Jews for
the worst crimes of the Soviet regime, while minimizing the
significance of the Holocaust and the scale of pre-revolutionary
pogroms targeted against the Jewish community.
Mr. Kaganov and local Jewish leaders appealed to the local Department
of Culture and to regional and city authorities in the hope of
obtaining an official statement condemning the article. He also met
with the editors of "Zemlyaki" which is published by a veterans
association and has a circulation of 25,000. The editorial staff
promised to do something to correct the situation.
On February 1, 2003 an article by Mr. Popok appeared in the local
newspaper "Kuzbass" with similar accusations against the Jewish
community. Mr. Kaganov told UCSJ that he doesn't believe it's worth
the effort to press for criminal charges of inciting ethnic hatred
against Mr. Popok, since local prosecutors would most likely not
follow through on such a request.
Racist Attack in Novosibirsk Leaves One Dead
UCSJ, February 26th, 2009
Racists attacked a group of Armenians in Novosibirsk, Russia according
to a February 24, 2009 report by the Sova Information-Analytical
Center. One of the victims, Anton Sargsyan, said that the assailants
approached them, asked if they were Armenians, and then started to
beat them. One of the victims died in the hospital afterwards.
Police are investigating the attack as armed robbery; hate crimes
charges may be tacked on to the case later.
Kaliningrad Prosecutors Drop Incitement Charges Against Local Antisemite
UCSJ, February 27, 2009
Prosecutors in Kaliningrad, Russia dropped incitement charges against
a man who published antisemitic literature and publicly agitated
against Jews, according to a February 27, 2009 report by the Jewish.ru
web site. Vladimir Levchenko originally ran afoul of the law in 2004
when he published and distributed leaflets entitled "A Tender Proposal
to the Kikes of the Kaliningrad Region." He then went to Victory
Square in the center of town and started chanting antisemitic slogans.
Prosecutors originally achieved a conviction in 2004, but the judge
gave Mr. Levchenko a suspended sentence. It is unclear from the report
why they have given up on the case this time.
Petersburg Metro Employee Punished for Racist Announcement
UCSJ, February 27, 2009
An employee of the St. Petersburg metro system was stripped of her
monthly bonus for warning passengers: "Careful passengers--there are
Gypsies in the station." According to a February 27, 2009 article in
the local edition of the national daily "Komsomolskaya Pravda," the
local chapter of the NGO "Memorial" complained to the management of
the Metro station, pointing out that the announcement contradicts the
spirt of the city-wide "Tolerance" program. Far-right activists and
members of the general public reacted with outrage and started
collecting money to make up for the employee's lost bonus.
"It's better that these people spend their time raising money than
killing migrants and Gypsies on the streets," said Olga Abramenko,
director of the Center for Legal and Social Defense of Gypsies, also
known as Roma.
Yabloko propounds program to purge Russia from Stalinism
Interfax, February 28, 2009
MOSCOW. Feb 28 (Interfax) - Russia's liberal Yabloko party on Saturday
accused the Russian government of using "Bolshevik" and "Stalinist"
methods and propounded a program for the country to definitively
disavow Bolshevism and Stalinism.
In a statement entitled "Disavowal of Bolshevism and Stalinism As a
Condition for the Modernization of Russia in the 21st Century" and
approved at a meeting in Moscow of its leadership body, Yabloko
insisted that "a clear and unambiguous legal, political and moral
assessment be made at state level of the forcible seizure of power by
the Bolsheviks in 1917-1918, of the character and nature of the
political regime created by them, and of its activities."
The party insisted on criminalizing "attempts to justify mass
persecutions and the annihilation of millions of innocent people."
"Denial of mass persecutions and of actions to eradicate social and
ethnic groups" should also be outlawed, it said.
It is also essential to declare officially, the statement said, that
today's Russia "is a legal successor to the Russian state that existed
prior to the October coup of 1917" and "to identify Russia once and
for all as a European country that comprehensively espouses the values
of postwar European civilization."
"In today's Russia there must exist no organizations that are or call
themselves successors to the All-Union Communist Party
(Bolsheviks)-Communist Party of the Soviet Union or to
Cheka-GPU-NKVD-MGB," Yabloko said.
Cheka, GPU, NKVD and MGB were successive names of the former Soviet
"Russia must not, and cannot, deny what the Russian people
accomplished with their tremendous amount of work for the seven
decades (after 1917)," Yabloko said. It is wrong, however, to link
those achievements to the totalitarian system, it argued.
"The victory over fascism is a heroic accomplishment by the people,
and it is unacceptable to humiliate them by allegations about the
effectiveness of general fear of NKVD barrier detachments (units that
were preventing soldiers from running away from World War II
battlefields by firing on them)," the party said.
In today's Russia, "the Stalinist system, in which special services
and punitive authorities in effect form the supreme branch of
government and are the ultimate decision makers while terror is raised
to the level of state policy, is not history but everyday reality," it
The reason is that "Stalinism and Bolshevism are not properly
understood, and hence they have not been disavowed."
Yabloko called for "a set of measures to eradicate the
Stalinist-Bolshevik system of government" and for a campaign to
explain the dangers of Bolshevism, Stalinism and nationalism.
One of the propounded measures is "a consistent policy of purging the
names of towns, streets and squares named after statesmen who were
organizers of, and active participants, in terror."
"Place names can no longer remain a zone for perpetuating the memory
of criminals," said Sergei Ivanenko, a member of Yabloko's political
committee (governing body), which approved the statement at Saturday's
Yabloko expressed doubt that Russia's current leadership would even
partially put the program into practice but warned that "Russia will
have no future if it does not completely and absolutely renounce the
modification of the Soviet Stalinist system in the form of post-Soviet
Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin argued at the committee meeting that
Stalinism is not the ideology of the current Russian political elite.
"However, we can see Stalinism being flirted with and used to
manipulate society," he said.
The leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who took
part in debates on the program at the committee meeting, told
Interfax: "Though this is an obvious position to take, such a
document, which clearly sets large-scale goals, was long overdue for
the democratic movement."
The program's key points had been drafted by Grigory Yavlinsky,
former Yabloko leader who is today a member of the party's political
committee, and by a wide range of experts.
The leader of the Memorial human rights group, Arseny Roginsky, and a
member of the Memorial executive board, Yan Rochinsky, also took part
in the debates and supported the program.
II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
By Leon Aron
RUSSIAN OUTLOOK - AEI Online, May 8, 2008
Throughout Russia's history, the weakness of institutions and laws has
ensured that the
successor regimes rarely, if ever, turn out as intended by the
previous ruler. Instead of
continuity, the national tradition of highly personalized government
often produces a very
different political organism ostensibly from the same institutional
framework. Yet with
former president Vladimir Putin's staying on as a kind of regent-prime
minister to the
dauphin-president Dmitri Medvedev, at least for the next few years,
the ideology, priorities,
and policies of the Putin Kremlin--what might be called Putinism--are
almost certain to
inform and guide the Medvedev administration. Part I of this Outlook
discusses the components of the new Russian authoritarianism, and
parts II and III examine the elements of "Russia, Inc."--the
corporatist state that Putin has builtand the factors that may affect
Russia's economic performance, stability, and foreign policy in the
Part I: The New Russian Authoritarianism
In one of the most memorable examples of conceptual elegance and
parsimony in the social sciences, Samuel Huntington
defined the many and often very different authoritarian regimes simply
as lacking the common "institutional core" of
democratic systems. The latter, in turn, are defined as states in
which the "principal offices" of the government are
chosen through competitive elections in which the bulk of the
population can participate.
In a more detailed portrayal, Huntington characterizes democracies as
permitting the selection of the "most powerful"
national decision-makers in "fair, honest and periodic elections, in
which candidates freely compete for votes."
Conversely, in "undemocratic systems," opposition is not permitted to
participate in elections, or it is "curbed and
harassed," its newspapers are "censored or closed down," and votes are
"manipulated or miscounted."
After several years of the state's systematic recovery of ownership,
or at least firm control, of the country's politics and key
sectors of the economy, the parliamentary election of December 2007
(for which, a Russian observer suggested, "voting"
would be the proper description, not "elections") and the March
2008 presidential election (for which "voting" would be
just as appropriate a characterization) have confirmed beyond a shade
of doubt the present Russian regime's close
correspondence to Huntington's shorter and longer definitions of
authoritarianism. Dmitri Trenin, deputy director of the
Carnegie Moscow Center and one of the most objective and insightful
observers of Russian domestic and foreign policies,
wrote last year that "the Kremlin has assumed the role of the creator
of all public life. It has built parties, managed
elections, planted seeds of 'healthy' civil society, organized youth,
and developed ideological constructs." In a more
extended account, another Russian commentator characterized the system
as one in which the president is the only
independent political subject, while the provincial governors can be
removed without so much as an explanation; all
regional parliaments (the Dumas) are largely packed with deputies from
the "party of power," United Russia, and thus
make decisions "following a phone call from the presidential
administration" or the governor appointed by the Kremlin.
Those in the judicial branch "won't even dare think" of defying the
executive; the opposition has been squeezed not just to
the periphery of the political process but outside of it, and the most
popular of the media, television, is subject to the
constant scrutiny of the Kremlin "curators."
Tolerance and Repression. Thus, Russia today has most of the
characteristics of classic authoritarianism. While the
effective political challenges to the regime have been eliminated, the
state (unlike totalitarian regimes, including the Soviet
Union) does not seek to control every aspect of civil society and
individual life. It is content with securing noninterference in
its affairs rather than demanding total and incessantly reaffirmed
allegiance. Similarly, there is no elaborate, codified, and
strictly enforced "official" ideology or a party guided by it.
Apolitical pursuits and voluntary associations of a professional,
cultural, or religious nature are permitted to exist outside of the
state's purview; so long as the arts do not touch on national
politics, censorship is rare, as it is in book publishing and the mass
media. Foreign travel, foreign residence and return,
and study abroad are unimpeded. Most important, unlike totalitarian
regimes, this authoritarian regime does not seek
physical annihilation (or at least incarceration) of all opponents. As
the references in this Outlook attest, while most of the
regime's leading critics are permanently excluded from television and
mass-circulation newspapers, they have until now
been permitted to publish abroad or in such relatively obscure media
as the Internet sites visited mostly by the oppositional
Yet for many of those who persist in trying to influence national
repression, although select, is real, systematic, and pitiless. Under
Putinism, opponents are portrayed as contemptible traitors who wish
their country ill. As Putin stated at a pre-election rally last November:
"Those who oppose us . . . have totally different tasks and different
visions of Russia. They need a weak, sick state.
They need a disorganized and disoriented society--in order to make
their deals behind our back, in order to receive
nice payoffs at our expense. And, unfortunately, there are still those
who look for crumbs [Putin used the verb
shakalit, or "looks for food jackal-like"] near foreign embassies,
foreign diplomatic missions, [and who] count on the
support of foreign foundations and governments, not the support of
their own people."
Unsanctioned demonstrations--and virtually all demonstrations by the
opposition are routinely disallowed--are often
suppressed with shocking brutality. Several opposition activists
have been physically assailed and some beaten
unconscious. They and members of their families are harassed at home
and on the streets and brought up on false
criminal charges. Weapons and drugs are planted on them, and they are
accused of "assaulting" and "injuring" police
officers, espionage, and "extremism." In violation of the
progressive 2001 Criminal Procedural Code, bail is routinely
denied, and pretrial detention--which Russian and international human
rights organizations repeatedly compare to
torture--can last for months or even years. The use of punitive
psychiatry has been renewed, and several members of the
opposition in the past year have been forcibly committed to
psychiatric wards. Human rights activists estimate that
there are dozens of political prisoners in Russia today.
Punishing the Recalcitrant. When the regime seeks to make an example
of the recalcitrant, it can be cruel, even sadistic.
Such is the case of Harvard Law School graduate Vasily Aleksanyan, who
was arrested in April 2006, five days after
becoming executive vice president of the nearly decimated Yukos, which
used to be Russia's largest and most transparent
private firm. Aleksanyan was charged with embezzlement and laundering
$433 million. A few months later, he was
diagnosed with AIDS, but he continued to be kept in a prison hospital
that had no treatment. Although not convicted of any
crime, he has been in custody for over two years.
The authorities reportedly sought from Aleksanyan evidence that would
help them initiate new trials and convictions of
Yukos's former principal shareholders, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon
Lebedev (currently serving eight-year sentences),
in order to extend their incarceration by between ten and twenty
years. As Aleksanyan later told the Supreme Court of the
Russian Federation, in December 2006 he was offered freedom and
medical treatment in exchange for giving the
prosecutors "the types of statements their superiors will like."
They "tried to convince me every which way that I must
do this," Aleksanyan said, "but I can't bear false witness; I can't
falsely implicate innocent people. I refused."
Regarding the prison authorities' statement that Aleksanyan had
"refused" medical treatment, he told the court, "Whoever
says that--I want him to [live in] my body for ten minutes, so he can
experience the hellish torture I am going through."
The head of Putin's own Human Rights Council called Aleksanyan's
situation "simply monstrous." The European Court
of Human Rights appealed to the Russian authorities four times to
transfer Aleksanyan "immediately" to an AIDS clinic.
Two weeks after Aleksanyan was finally transferred, under guard, to a
regular hospital this past February (following a
hunger strike by Mikhail Khodorkovsky), the authorities permitted a
visit by Nikolai Svanidze and Genry Reznik--two
members of the Kremlin's highest consultative body, the Public
Chamber--and Russia's human rights ombudsman, Vladimir
Lukin. They found Aleksanyan almost blind and sick with lymphoma. He
was confined to a tiny room with an armed guard
sitting next to his bed day and night. The guards were changed every
two hours, saluting one another, stomping their
boots, and loudly reporting, thus never allowing Aleksanyan
uninterrupted sleep. He told the visitors that until they came to
see him, he was at all times shackled to his bed by a chain attached
to his wrist. In the previous two weeks, he had been
taken to a shower in the corridor, handcuffed, three times.
Along with the characteristics of traditional authoritarianism,
Putinism has exhibited a number of distinct features. Whether
they coalesce into a kind of protofascism, as has recently been
suggested, remains to be seen, but their similarity to
well-known components of a fascistic polity is fascinating, and the
tendency bears watching very carefully.
The "National Leader." Putinism has evolved into a manifestly and
intensely personalized system of rule with power
increasingly stemming from personal authority rather than that of
office. Putin's popularity has been central to the regime's
legitimacy. Last year, he was proclaimed a "national leader" by
leading politicians and the mass media, and his "plan" (plan
Putina) was declared to be "Russia's plan" (plan Rossii), although the
contents were never disclosed. Last year, a midday
rally at Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow's largest stadium, was officially
titled "Forum of the Supporters of the President of
Putin's official image has been imbued with physical vigor,
youthfulness, and swagger. Last fall, widely circulated
photographs featured Russia's president half-naked, with a muscular,
glistening torso, holding a periscope rifle with a
hunting knife on his belt. The frequent vulgarities that Putin seems
to delight in using during press conferences and
speeches, especially to foreign journalists, seem intended to
underscore his machismo and disdain for liberal "softies."
Putin's "stepping down" from the presidency and becoming prime
minister has changed nothing in his preeminence in
Russian politics. His acceptance of the chairmanship of United Russia
this past April without having ever been a party
member was designed to signal this supremacy. While some analysts saw
in Putin's new position parallels with the Soviet system in which the
president (chairman of the Supreme Soviet) and the prime minister were
largely ceremonial positions,
and the power resided in the extraconstitutional office of the general
(or first) secretary of the party, leading Kremlin
propagandist Sergei Markov was frank in noting that the leadership of
United Russia "strengthens Putin's political weight
as national leader." Although Medvedev was "the leader of the
state and of the Russian Federation," Markov added,
"the political leader of the country remains Putin." Even before
Putin's party chairmanship, a strong majority of
Russians had come to the same conclusion: six out of ten respondents
in a national survey agreed that "despite
Medvedev's election, the power will remain in the hands of Putin and
his entourage," as compared with two in ten who
Stoking the Sense of Loss and Imperial Nostalgia. In the 2005 State of
Russia address, Putin called the fall of the
Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th
century." Following this unambiguous assessment, the
democratic revolution of 1987-1991 and the attempts to build the
institutions of democracy and liberal capitalism in the
1990s have been uniformly labeled by leading politicians and the mass
media as times of "national humiliation," "a failed
state," and, most of all, "chaos."
By contrast, the Soviet past has been increasingly portrayed as a time
of success that should make true patriots proud of
the global military superpower and multinational empire, which the
world treated with respect and trepidation. Terror that
killed millions, crushing poverty, starvation, aggression, and wars
are mentioned rarely, if at all. The positive invocations of
the Soviet past are ubiquitous: the music of the national anthem,
endless serials on the state-controlled television glorifying
the chekists (secret police), and a creeping rehabilitation of Stalin
and Stalinism in history textbooks. In this pastoral
version of the past, everything was better, and there was more of
it, in Soviet days--tanks and hockey teams, missiles
and movies, cruisers and bread.
Even telecommunication was superior. Reprimanding the ministry of
informational technologies and communication for its failures and
exhorting the Russian business community to create a "people's
telephone," First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov averred in 2007
that Soviet Russia had been "second in the world in informational
technologies" and that "we can and must regain the position we
lost." According to a 1987 article in Pravda, only one Soviet
five had a telephone, and people waited for decades, often without
success, to have a phone installed at home. One wonders to which
country, in Ivanov's estimate, was Soviet
A Besieged Fortress. A Russia beset by external enemies bent on
undermining its "territorial integrity" and "sovereignty"
and seeking to claim the country's natural wealth has been the
regime's article of faith and a key propaganda theme. The
Kremlin's main ideologist and a deputy head of presidential
administration, Vladislav Surkov, has accused those "who
consider the non-violent collapse of the Soviet Union [to be] their
success" of trying to "destroy Russia and fill its enormous
space with many weak quasi-states." The malfeasants' main goal,
Surkov contended, was to "annihilate Russia's
statehood" using allies from inside. In what he called a "de-facto
besieged country," Surkov has also found "a fifth column,"
its ranks filled with the "left and right radicals" who have "common
foreign sponsors" and who are united by "the hatred of
what they claim to be Putin's Russia but, in fact, of Russia herself."
Speaking in May 2007 at the military parade to celebrate the
sixty-second anniversary of victory in World War II, Putin
likened the perpetrators of "new threats" to Russia to the Third Reich
because of "the same desire to impose diktat on the
world." (Everyone in Moscow that day understood the unnamed
evildoer to be the United States.) Last November,
on the other main national holiday, the Day of Reconciliation, Putin
again spoke of "those who would themselves like to
rule all humanity" and who "insist on the necessity of splitting
[Russia]" because it has "too many natural resources."
Islamic terrorists, too, are but a tool in the hands of Russia's old
enemies. As Putin said in the September 2004 address to
the nation in the aftermath of the Beslan school hostage-taking and
the death of 334 civilians--186 of whom were
children--"some want to tear a juicy piece out" of Russia, and others,
who see Russia as "a threat" that "must be
eliminated," are helping them. "Terrorism," he continued, "is only
a means of achieving these objectives." According
to Surkov, "the detonation of our southern borders as [a] means of
weakening Russia" was used many times in the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Kremlin views virtually everything happening around Russia today
as a plot against it. Even Russian fishermen are not
safe from foreign predators. In the words of then-first deputy prime
minister Medvedev, "we must revive the navy . . . to
protect our fishermen."
In this worldview, the future deployment of ten missile interceptors
in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic
has produced grave concern for Russia's safety, despite the U.S.
invitation to Moscow to deploy observers on the ground
and the promise not to "activate" the site until Washington and Moscow
certify that Iran actually possesses the threatening
missiles. With its untested technology, this scrawny outfit--which a
prominent Russian arms control specialist has recently
judged to be "incapable of threatening anyone, perhaps including
Iran"--is said by the Kremlin to be capable of
hindering Russia's nuclear arsenal with its 2,480 nuclear warheads on
704 long-range ballistic missiles.
Rigged by Russia's enemies, Trojan horses have multiplied into herds.
The antiauthoritarian revolutions in Georgia in 2004
and Ukraine in 2005 are dangers--and so, as in the Soviet days, are
the West's human rights organizations and election
observers. At his last press conference as Russian president this past
February, Putin suggested that, instead of "teaching us democracy,"
those in the West who are concerned about human rights and liberties
in Russia "should teach their wives
how to make shchi," or Russian cabbage soup. It is instructive to
compare this statement to then-Soviet foreign minister
Eduard Shevardnadze's interview with a Soviet newspaper in May 1989:
It does not make sense to call following common sense a "concession to
the West." . . . Is it in the interest of the
West that the Soviet people have in their possession the entire range
of liberties, which constitute human rights? It
is you and me who need them first and foremost, it is our children. .
. . Without developed and guaranteed human
rights there is no and could not be democracy, there is no and could
not be a lawful state.
Unchallenged in national politics and the mass media, the "besieged
fortress" propaganda appears to be taking root, just
as it did in Soviet days. If in 1998 only one-third of the Russians
surveyed thought their country was under a "military threat
from other countries," this year, over half believed that it was,
while the proportions of those who did not see the danger
went from 59 to 38 percent.
A Foreign Policy of Resurgence and Retribution. Recovering at least
some of the assets lost in the "catastrophe" of
the Soviet Union's demise and exacting a retribution for alleged past
humiliations seem to have become key objectives of
Russian foreign policy. Fervor to reassert territorial sovereignty,
seen as threatened, led Russia last summer to drop a
titanium replica of its national flag on the bottom of the Arctic
Ocean at the North Pole. The zeal to demonstrate recovered
military might has led to the dispatch of Tu-95 ("Bear")
propeller-driven, strategic bombers with 1950s design and
technology to "patrol" the airspace on the borders of the NATO member
countries, as well as to the "buzzing" (that is,
overflying unusually close) of a U.S. aircraft carrier by two "Bears"
this past February.
The formerly diverse bilateral U.S.-Russian agenda--energy security,
nuclear nonproliferation, the global war on terrorism,
the containment of a resurgent authoritarian China, Russia's
integration in the world's economy--has been deliberately and
systematically whittled down by Moscow to what it was in Soviet days
and what the Kremlin now wants it to be: arms
control. Russia's most authoritative independent military analyst,
Alexandr Gol'tz, has noted that the country's foreign
policy is "increasingly concentrated on military problems and based on
the [policy of] containment."
Russian foreign policy has steadily grown truculent and, in many
instances, pointedly anti-Western, as in the cases of Iran
and Kosovo. In the process, the Kremlin has begun to tamper with some
key structures of post-Cold War European
security: the intermediate missile force agreement, signed by Ronald
Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987; the 1990
treaty on conventional forces in Europe between the Warsaw Pact and
NATO; and the 1991 START nuclear arms accord.
Moscow has threatened to "abandon" the first, has "suspended" its
participation in the second, and has hinted at
renegotiating the third when it expires in 2009.
Most worrisome in the long run might be Russia's evolution toward what
is known in the theory of international relations as
a revisionist power, as has been noted in these pages. Up until a
year ago, it could be said that, while railing at the
score, Russia was not seeking to change the rules of the game. This is
no longer certain. As Putin told an international
conference in February 2007, "We have approached that watershed
moment, when we have to think seriously about the
entire architecture of global security." Ten months later, Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov blamed NATO, the
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the
Conventional Forces in Europe treaty--the cornerstones of
European stability and Russian bugbears, all--for unspecified "major
problems." The "moment of truth" has arrived,
Lavrov declared: Moscow intends "to clear out"--that is, to
dismantle--the offending institutions, or, as a Russian news
agency put it, to "break up the old system of international security."
Spymania. Under Putin, the budget for security services has increased
almost tenfold, from $4 billion to $39 billion.
Inaugurated by the trumped-up charges and shamelessly rigged spy
trials of Igor Sutyagin, the arms control researcher at
the United States and Canada Institute in Moscow, and Valentin
Danilov, professor at the Krasnoyarsk State Technical
University and expert on satellite technology, spymania today
reportedly has ensnared up to fifteen scientists who have
been charged with or convicted of espionage.
Ideological "Subversion" as a National Security Concern. The struggle
against alleged ideological subversion has
been added to the duties of security services. Last year, leading
Russian politicians accused the British Council, a cultural
and educational organization financed by the British government, of
being a front for spies. In a speech to Federal Security
Service (FSB) officers last January, Putin called on the security
agency to "increase its work to gather information about
attempts to interfere with our internal affairs" in connection with
the upcoming presidential election campaign. Two
months later, FSB director Nikolay Patrushev accused unnamed Russian
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) of
assisting terrorists. In turn, both the NGOs and the terrorists were
being helped by "foreign non-governmental
organizations." In response, a prominent Russian human rights
activist, Irina Yasina, suggested that "the people who
are with Patrushev--they are supposed to believe that we are
surrounded by enemies, surrounded by spies."
Being Anti-West as New Russian Patriotism. At the conclusion of the
meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel
this past March, Putin asserted that the West should not expect an
"easier" time in dealing with Medvedev than it has had
with him because, like Putin, the president was a "Russian
nationalist," implying that a Russian patriot is by definition
prone to disagreements or even conflict with the West.
The notion of the "common European home"--with its rule of law and
the moral imperatives of liberty and justice that were so popular in
Russia in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s--has been
discarded. Criminals convicted in the West or wanted as suspects in
Western nations are fêted. Vitaliy Kaloev, who stabbed to death a
Swiss air traffic controller whom he held responsible for
a crash that killed his wife and children, was given a hero's welcome
and is now deputy minister in the government of the
autonomous republic of North Ossetia. Last December, Andrei Lugovoy,
who is sought by Scotland Yard as the chief
suspect in the murder of the FSB defector-turned-dissident Alexandr
Litvinenko, was "elected" a Duma deputy.
Ethnicity as Identity. Whereas Boris Yeltsin always used the word
rossiyanin, or "citizen of Russia," to describe his own
nationality and that of his compatriots (as opposed to russkiy, which
describes ethnic Russianness), the present
administration appears to be shifting to representing the country
emphatically and dominantly as the state of ethnic
Russians. In the instance described above, Putin used russkiy to
describe Medvedev (and himself) as "Russian
nationalists." (The word "nationalist" was edited out on all Russian
television channels and changed to "patriot" on the
The Russian Orthodox Church, it appears, is being gradually elevated
to the state religion, which the constitution explicitly
prohibits. The church has been granted a spiritual monopoly in the
armed forces, and classes in Orthodox Christianity
have been made mandatory in many regions of the country. In August
2007, Russia's Council of Muftis issued a statement
opposing the introduction of such a course in all state schools.
Growing Ethnic Violence. The discrimination of and physical attacks on
Asians, Africans, and Caucasians (that is,
people from the Caucasus region) are a perennial feature in Russian
cities and towns. Following a sharp worsening of
relations with Georgia after the 2004 Rose Revolution and in response
to the arrest by Georgian authorities of four
Russian military officers on charges of espionage in September 2006,
Russia expelled over two thousand ethnic
Georgians from Moscow and other large cities. A prominent Russian
journalist and member of the Public Chamber has
recently blamed the murders of Central Asians, which he claims occur
in Moscow once or even twice daily, on the
"situation of intolerance and aggression." He called for "a
completely different" environment: one "of tolerance toward
people of different appearance, different ethnicity and religion."
He was echoed by the<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)