Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Bulletin 4:5 (2010)

Expand Messages
  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 4, No. 5(86), 17 January 2010 Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland I
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 17, 2010
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 4, No. 5(86), 17 January 2010
      Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 1 - 15 January 2010
      APPENDIX: Comment by RNB reader sent to "Russian Nationalism"

      [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.]

      I NEWS: 1 - 15 January 2010

      Lenin Mausoleum to stay on Red Square - Kremlin source
      Interfax , January 5, 2010

      A renovation of Red Square, the central square in Moscow near the Kremlin, is to start in 2010. But there is no question of moving the Lenin Mausoleum from Red Square, the Russian president's office manager, Vladimir Kozhin, has told Interfax.
      "This subject is being mooted in the media all the time. But our response is simple - at this moment in time no-one is discussing or going to discuss in the immediate future the possibility of closing down the mausoleum and moving the body of Lenin and the graves (of Soviet leaders buried) by the Kremlin Wall," Kozhin said in an interview with Interfax.
      In his opinion, "this issue needs time to mature and to earn a right to be discussed".
      "At some point in the future we may arrive at this. I personally believe that at present it is unacceptable even to discuss this subject. Both ethically and politically this is not a topic for today," Kozhin said.
      He said the renovation of Red Square would get under way in the summer of 2010 and take about a year. The appearance of Red Square will remain the same, he added.
      Celebration of 65th anniversary of end of war
      According to the presidential administration official, in its current state Red Square can still host a military parade to mark the 65th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War (World War II) in May 2010. "There will be no problem as regards military hardware passing there," Kozhin said.
      He described the 65th anniversary as the main event of 2010 for Russia, the CIS countries, Europe and the world as a whole. "Unfortunately, every year there remain fewer and fewer veterans and participants in the Great Patriotic War. Currently there are about five million war veterans. But unfortunately there are fewer veterans and invalids who directly took part in military action. As of November 2009, there were only several hundred thousands of them," he said.
      Kozhin said the festivities to mark the 65th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War would be unprecedented in scale. For the first time an All-Russian military parade will be held across the country, from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad. The parade will start at the same time in all cities - at 1000 hours Moscow time.
      Many guests and heads of state and government are expected to arrive in Russia for the celebrations. When the 60th anniversary was celebrated, the Russian president sent out invitations. This time there will be no invitations, Kozhin said. The leadership of each country will have to decide for itself whether to attend. But it is already clear now, Kozhin said, that the heads of most leading countries in the world will come to Moscow for the celebrations.
      Parliament Centre to be built near Kremlin
      The Russian parliament will get new premises that will be built not far from the Kremlin. After parliament moves to its new premises, the current premises of the Federation Council and State Duma will be sold at auction, Kozhin said.
      "A Parliament Centre will be built in a beautiful and appropriate place in the centre of Moscow, not far from the Kremlin," Kozhin told Interfax.
      He did not give the exact location, saying that the final decision would be taken in the first quarter of 2010. After the final decision is taken, modern technology will make it possible to build the centre in a year and a half to two years, Kozhin explained.
      According to Kozhin, the construction of the Parliament Centre is justified economically because at present the State Duma and Federation Council have 20 premises, and their maintenance and transport arrangements are expensive.
      "All the current premises of the State Duma and Federation Council, after the Parliament Centre is completed, are to be sold at auction," the president's office manager said.

      December 2009 Monthly Summary and Preliminary Resume of 2009
      SOVA Center, January 5, 2010

      In December 2009, Sova center registered at least four murdered and six injured in racist and neo-Nazo motivated violence acts. Besides Moscow and St. Petersburg, an attack took place in Petrozavodsk. (In December 2008, at least four were murdered and at least 34 injured.)
      In all, from the beginning of the year, according to our sources, at least 60 people were murdered and at least 306 injured in violent hate crimes (in 2008, at least 110 were murdered and at least 486 injured).
      In December 2009, we registered at least 11 organized graffiti and sticker actions held by ultra-right groups. Besides, one Jewish and one Orthodox object became victims of vandalism (in the latter case, radicals threw an explosive device into the church).
      In all, from the beginning of the year, we registered at least 114 acts of vandalism committed, as we estimate, with a hate motive or because of neo-Nazi views. Among them, 57 were acts of ideologically motivated vandalism (profanation of World War II memorials, organized graffiti actions, etc.), 22 attacks against Jewish religious objects, 15 against Orthodox ones, seven against Muslim ones, four against Armenian ones, four against ones of various Protestant denominations, four against buildings of new religious organizations, one against a Catholic object. Among these attacks, there were at least 12 explosions and arsons of Jewish, Orthodox, Protestant objects and those of new religious organizations.
      Separately, we register attacks against state structures and the so-called "targetless" terror directed not against particular targets of hate but at causing the biggest damage possible for the purpose of bullying.
      In December 2009, we registered two such cases. In St. Petersburg, an arson attempt was made on an apartment that citizens of Tajikistan rented, and in Moscow, on the Federal Security Service department office in the Southeastern administrative district.
      In all, from the beginning of the year, we registered at least 20 explosions, arsons, imitations of explosive devices, etc. that can most probably be rated as actions held by radical rights. Neo-Nazis themselves took the responsibility for at least 40 such crimes, however the truthfulness of these declarations, as well as the facts of the crimes per se are often very doubtful.
      In December, at least four sentences were passed for murders and attacks carried out with racist and neo-Nazi motives when courts recognized hate motives (in Novosibirsk, Cheliabinsk, St. Petersburg, and Vladimir region). 12 people were sentenced, six of them received suspended sentences.
      In all, at least 45 sentences were passed in 2009 for similar crimes where courts recognized the hate motive. These sentences were passed in 25 regions of Russia. At least 137 people were convicted. 33 of them received suspended sentences or were for various reasons released from their punishment. Further see Chronicle of Guilty Verdicts for Hate Motivated Violence. 2009.
      In 2008, there were 35 such sentences, 118 people were sentenced, 31 among them given suspended sentences.
      In December 2009, at least five sentences against five people were passed for xenophobic propaganda (incitement of national hate) (in Moscow, Kursk, Vladivostok, Chita and Cheliabinsk). Three convicts received suspended sentences without additional sanctions.
      In all, in 2009, at least 38 guilty verdicts were passed under article 282 in 27 regions of Russia. 48 people were convicted, 21 of them received suspended sentences or were released from their punishment. Further see Chronicle of the Guilty Verdicts for Propaganda of Xenophobia in Russia. 2009.
      In 2008, 44 sentences for xenophobic propaganda were passed against 60 people.
      In December, the Federal List of Extremist Materials was supplemented three times (on 17, 25 and 28 December) and so it grew from 454 to 467 items. Besides, in December, one item was withdrawn from the list for the first time. This was a leaflet against Krishnaists by the `Young Guard of the `United Russia'.
      In all, in 2009, the Federal List of Extremist Materials grew from 301 to 467 items. It should be noted that the document's quality continues to decrease: the number of materials included twice and unidentifiable ones grows.
      Summarizing 2009, we would like to note some more facts.
      In 2009, one sentence in each of five regions of Russia (Moscow, Moscow region, Ivanovo region, Sverdlovsk region, and Krasnoyarsk territory) was passed for vandalism with a hate motive. Six people were convicted. Further see Chronicle of the Guilty Verdicts for Hate Motivated Vandalism. 2009. In 2008, there were two such sentences passed.
      During the year, at least 10 sentences were passed for public calls for extremist activity (in three cases, people were also accused of incitement of national hate). Further see Khronika obvinitel'nykh prigovorov za publichnye prizyvy k ekstremistskoi deiatel'nosti v 2009 godu. In 2008, there were eight such sentences passed.
      The Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications issued 28 `anti-extremist' warnings to media in 2009 (the same number as in 2008 ). Among them, we consider at least 11 warnings inappropriate (in 2008, there were six such warnings).


      Protests against the visit of Oleh Tyahnybok
      Anton Shekhovtsov's Blog, 7 January 2010

      On 6 January 2010, approximately a thousand (some say 1.500) of citizens of Sevastopol protested against the visit of notorious radical right-winger Oleh Tyahnybok, a leader of the All-Ukrainian Union "Freedom" and a 2010 presidential candidate -
      The protests were organised by various groups and parties, ranging from internationalist anti-fascists and Marxists to radical Russian nationalists and Ukrainian populists (the Party of Regions). Anti-fascists and Marxists chanted slogans like "Fascism shall not pass" and "Ouf fatherland is the whole world", while Russian nationalists shouted "Russia, Russia". The Party of Regions, which backs the currently most popular presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, did nothing at all, and I assume most of the people who held blue banners of the party were paid for participating in the protests. But well, at least they showed up. It is a shame that local activists of the Bloc of Yuliya Tymoshenko, another popular presidential candidate, did not support the protests against Tyahnybok.


      Head of Voronezh Russian Orthodox Diocese Calls for Restrictions on Minority Christians, Accuses Them of Espionage
      UCSJ, January 6, 2010

      Metropolitan Sergiy, the head of the Russian Orthodox diocese of Voronezh, accused
      "sects" (a pejorative codeword for minority Christians) of espionage and
      exploiting their parishioners, according to a December 30, 2009 report
      by the Portal-Credo news web site. In a local television interview,
      Metropolitan Sergiy called for the Russian government to repress
      "sects." The government should prevent Russians from joining any but
      the four "traditional" religions--Orthodox Christianity, Islam,
      Buddhism and Judaism--he argued, stating that he would prefer that
      people remain atheists rather than join a "non-traditional faith."
      His comment came amidst a widening crackdown on Jehovah's Witnesses in
      several Russian cities after a court ruling last year classified them
      as "extremists."
      "There are religions traditional to Russia, they have been tested
      by time," he said. "Choose them, or stay a non-believer." Echoing a
      common accusation from Orthodox Church circles and Russia's security
      agencies, he added that "sects" are a threat to state security as well,
      claiming that they "are a destructive political force: a sectarian's
      job might deal with state secrets, but he can become disillusioned,
      since he lives in a state of hypnosis."
      Protestants, Metropolitan Sergiy warned, "work within the bowels of
      [foreign] intelligence services and probe our weaknesses... this is a
      real war that doesn't result in the death of a person, but of that
      person's soul." "I am very cautious and urge all of you to be cautious"
      when it comes to Protestant missionaries, he concluded.
      Earlier, Metropolitan Sergiy claimed that during the 1990s, then U.S.
      Secretary of State Madeline Albright pressured the Russian government
      to abandon Russian Orthodoxy in favor of a different form of Christianity.


      Russian patriarch's future visit to Georgia may help reconciliation - archbishop
      Report by radio station Ekho Moskvy, January 7, 2010, BBC Monitoring

      (Presenter) Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus Kirill will visit Georgia despite the political disagreements between the two countries. The head of the department of external church relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Archbishop Ilarion of Volokolamsk, said this on Ekho Moskvy radio. He stressed that church affairs have no relationship with politics. However, the precise date of the patriarch's visit to Georgia is not yet known.
      (Archbishop Ilarion) The patriarch will visit local churches in line with the diptych, meaning the official order of churches. In our diptych the Georgian church is sixth in the list. We should expect that the Moscow patriarch will go to Georgia after he visits the Jerusalem patriarchate. And I think that through this, the Russian and Georgian Churches can make a considerable and important contribution to alleviating the situation which has emerged as a result of the unwise, or you could say reckless, actions of one political leader (clearly meaning Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili).
      (Presenter) In Archbishop Ilarion's opinion, it is the Churches that are the main tie uniting the Russian and Georgian peoples. (Passage omitted)
      Contacts between the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches cannot influence the situation. A reconciliation between Russia and Georgia can only come about due to a political solution, Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Iakobashvili said on our radio station.
      (Iakobashvili) Church relations do not replace state relations, and there should be no illusions that Russia will de-occupy Georgian territory, and these tricks saying that everything is normal, as if nothing has happened and the churches are communicating, will not succeed.
      I think that church relations will in absolutely no way influence a political settlement, because in both cases the church and state are separated. I don't know what the Russian government is trying to do there with the Russian Orthodox Church, but I assure you that this is not the path towards a reconciliation between our countries.
      (Presenter) According to the minister, there will not be good relations between the two countries until, I quote, the occupation of Georgia ends and Russia stops cultivating Georgiaphobia. It is not right to strike with one hand, and send off church delegates with the other, Iakobashvili said regarding Patriarch Kirill's intention to visit Georgia.
      (Passage omitted: State Duma deputy speaker Lyubov Sliska says that if Georgian politicians "do not quite understand that it is still better to be friends than enemies with the big neighbour", church relations may help in building a "spiritual bridge for political improvement that the Georgian authorities are lacking so much".)

      Minister On Transfer Of Property Into Church's Ownership
      Itar-Tass, January 8, 2010

      MOSCOW, January 8 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Minister of Culture Alexander Avdeyev said the upcoming transfer of facilities into the ownership of religious organizations should not be regarded as restitution (return of property illegally taken by the state to the original owners).
      "Our law does not envision restitution," Adveyev told Echo Moscow radio on Thursday.
      "Some post-totalitarian regime countries resorted to restitution. Instead of stability, they generated instability, which went as far as bloodshed. It's too late (for restitution); we've lived under other property laws for almost a century. Restitution would be unproductive in the present conditions," he noted.
      Even Russian emigres realize it. "The highly patriotic position of Russian expatriates shows today that no broad flow should be expected. People have already got used to another, civilized use of the property which had been private before the Bolshevik Revolution," the minister went on to say.
      The draft bill on the transfer of state or municipal property into the ownership of religious organization will be prepared and submitted for consideration by the State Duma (lower house of the Russian parliament) in the first half of 2010.
      "I believe we'll close the chapter on the matter in the first half," Avdeyev said.
      He explained that the new legislation envisions the transfer of both real estate into the ownership of the Church (churches, quarters accommodating museums and archives) and chattels (icons and church utensils).
      Aside from that, the bill provides for renovation of buildings that are property of the Church with the status of cultural facilities, according to the minister.
      He underlined that the new legislation applies not only to "Orthodox temples, but also to temples of all the traditional religions in Russia."

      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 1, January 8, 2010

      It is impermissible to measure Russian life by the norms of somebody else's civilization and culture, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia told the Russian Civil Service Academy on December 29, thus endorsing one of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's favorite arguments. "We must strongly oppose attempts to be judged by alien criteria," he said, according to Interfax. Russian foreign policy had long been trying "to prove to external observers that we are good guys and live by the same criteria but still have certain shortcomings. Our diplomats were humbly telling the critics, who tried to extrapolate their own criteria to our situation, that we were alike, good as they were and the critics simply had erroneous information and misunderstood us."
      Meanwhile, criteria applicable to another cultural environment "cannot be equally appropriate for Russia," Kirill continued. Otherwise, claims of "the alleged threat of clericalization of the Russian society" will be made, just like they were in annual freedom of worship reports of the U.S. Department of State, he noted and extended his criticisms to Europeans: "A modern European oriented at success, prosperity, and comfort yields to the passionate force the Islamic communities in Europe represent." The religious factor in public life has always been primary for Islamic countries, he added, while many Europeans "are losing their ability to heroism and death in defense of [their] home country." Kirill seemed to be implying that Christianity is at war with Islam and that Russians have the right approach, "heroism and death."


      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 1, January 8, 2010

      In 2009, the Sova Center for Information and Analysis, recorded in 25 regions of the country a total of 44 guilty verdicts in which a hate motive was officially recognized. The list was made on the basis of Sova's daily monitoring. In 2008, Sova registered 33 such guilty verdicts in 19 regions.
      But at the same time, slightly fewer guilty verdicts for racist propaganda were issued in 2009. While in 2008, Sova was aware of 42 guilty verdicts, in 2009 the number dropped to 38. In addition, in 2009 there were two verdicts for vandalism committed with a hate motive. Admitting the hate motive as an aggravating circumstance of vandalism is so very rare that Sova lists the cases separately.
      Sova cautioned that it might not have learned of all the guilty verdicts.


      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 1, January 8, 2010

      The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR), a leading Jewish umbrella organization in Russia, announced that it is bringing back a hot line for Russian Jews to call if they experience antisemitism, according to a December 30 report by the AEN news agency. The Moscow-based hot line connects victims of antisemitism with lawyers who can advise them of their rights. Last month, the head of FEOR, Chief Rabbi Beryl Lazar, met with President Dmitry Medvedev who declared that antisemitism in Russia is "much less prevalent" than in the past.


      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 1, January 8, 2010

      An unidentified individual threw a bomb into a St. Petersburg apartment rented out to migrant workers, according to a December 28 report by the local news web site Fontanka.ru. Only one person was home at the time, a 49 year old Tajik man, and he escaped without injury. However, the bomb shattered two windows. Police are investigating the incident.


      Russian cleric starts to serve in Tbilisi
      Interfax-Religion, January 11, 2010

      Moscow, January 11, Interfax - Archimandrite Roman (Lukin) of the Russian Orthodox Church has been blessed to serve at a church in Tbilisi.
      The cleric presented a letter of recommendations and Christmas greetings from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations said.
      Ilia II blessed Archimandrite Roman to minister at the John the Evangelist Cathedral in Tbilisi.
      The Archimandrite, Ilia II, head of the John the Evangelist Cathedral Archimandrite Adam (Akhaladze) and Archimandrite Vakhtang (Liparteliani) assigned by the Georgian Church to serve at the St. George Church in Moscow discussed the church life.
      This is the first appointment of a Russian Orthodox Church cleric to Georgia for over several decades. The Russian Orthodox Church Synod made the decision in late December 2009.
      Father Roman had been the pro-rector of the Stavropol Theological Seminary.


      Religious activist killed in Dagestan
      Interfax-Religion, January 12, 2010

      Makhachkala, January 12, Interfax - Deputy General Director of the Kizlyar Electromechanical Plant, Ahmed Ibragimov, has been killed in Dagestan on Monday.
      "He was reportedly killed with a gun. Investigators are working at the scene," spokesman for the Dagestan Interior Ministry told Interfax.
      Ibragimov was engaged in public and religious activities and he was deputy imam at a mosque in Kizlyar.


      Putin gives boost to law on church property return
      RIA Novosti, January 14, 2010

      MOSCOW, January 14 (RIA Novosti)-The Russian Orthodox Church looks set to become a major owner of property in Russia after a long-delayed law on returning religious property seized by the Bolsheviks got a push from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
      Kommersant newspaper reported on Thursday that the government had vowed to promptly turn the bill - being drafted by the economics ministry since 2007 - into law. A government commission on religious organizations held a session on Wednesday.
      "We discussed practically all articles of the bill," secretary Andrei Sebentsov told the business daily. "We agreed to remove all the weak points in it by February."
      Observers said the bill would chiefly benefit the country's dominant religion, making the Russian Orthodox Church a major real estate owner.
      At a meeting with Russian Patriarch Kirill earlier this month, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for progress in the long-stalled process to legitimize the property used by religious groups, including buildings and land plots.
      In almost two decades since the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union, the Orthodox Church has through government decrees regained ownership of just 100 or so of 16,000 churches and cathedrals, the paper said. The law would also affect more than 4,000 mosques and some 70 synagogues.
      Putin also said the culture ministry had drafted a bill to allocate state funds to help parishes and monasteries maintain or rebuild derelict churches, the paper said.
      The draft law also envisions the return of church archives and relics, which is expected to end disputes with museums that are often reluctant to part with their collections.
      "The law would affect the rights of museums, which could lose many of its exhibits if it is passed," Roman Lunkin, head of the Religion and Law Institute think tank, told Kommersant.
      The Orthodox Church, however, will not get back churches now on the UNESCO world heritage list, including St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square and the churches within the Kremlin walls, the paper said.
      Religious organizations, Christian churches, mosques and synagogues, currently have no ownership rights on their property, but rent it free of charge. The economics ministry has sought to change the ownership structure of property used by religious groups in a bid to cut budget spending.
      Real estate analysts have said that given the value of land in Moscow and other cities, the law could put the Church in the league of the gas and railroad monopolies, Gazprom and Russian Railways.
      The Communist Party warned that the ensuing commercial activity involving the property could harm the mission of religious organizations and Russia could have "gilded churches and growing poverty and immorality."
      The Orthodox Church and other religions dismissed the fears saying religious organizations will become legitimate owners of their property and will be independent of the state, and will spend more on charity.

      Authorities To Update Number Of Soviet Casualties During WW2
      Interfax-AVN, January 14, 2010

      MOSCOW. Jan 14 (Interfax-AVN) - Statistics on the number of Soviet army personnel and civilians who lost their lives during WW2 will be updated by May 9, 2010, which marks the 65th anniversary of the war's end, Alexander Kirillin, head of the Russian Defense Ministry's department for remembrance of servicemen killed in action, told the media on Thursday.
      "According to the current statistics, the war killed 26.6 million people, including 8.8 million in combat," he said.
      "The statistics will be updated by May 9, 2010, and posted for the general public in order to end speculation," Kirillin said.
      "Most probably, the statistics will not change much. Slight changes are possible in the number of people killed in combat, because it did not include servicemen of other units than those of the Soviet Defense Ministry," he said.

      Government throws out One Russia's bill to outlaw denial of Soviet WWII role
      Ekho Moskvy Radio, January 14, 2010, BBC Monitoring

      The Russian government has refused to endorse a draft law criminalizing denial of the Soviet Union's victory in World War II, Russian Ekho Moskvy radio station reported on 14 January, quoting a report by the business daily Vedomosti.
      Vedomosti has obtained a copy of the relevant resolution, signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Sobyanin, which reads in particular that the ministers have failed to understand the part of the bill dealing with distortions of the verdict of the Nuremberg Trials, because "it is unclear to them how a document that has already come into force can be distorted", the report said.
      The draft law was submitted to the State Duma about two years ago by several leading members of the One Russia party, including Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu and Boris Gryzlov, the State Duma speaker and chairman of the party's supreme political council. In May 2009 the relevant parliamentary committee recommended the bill for passage but things have not progressed since then. The report quoted a source in the State Duma as saying that "from the very start (the bill) was a fairly controversial initiative proposed exclusively in connection with Shoygu's vociferous statements (demanding that denial of the Soviet role in World War II be made a criminal offence)".

      1930s Famine in USSR Was Crime, But Not Genocide of Ukrainians - Memorial Director
      Interfax, January 14, 2010

      MOSCOW. Jan 14 (Interfax) - Ukraine's decision to give a legal evaluation of the crimes committed by the Soviet administration is right, but the 1930s famine in Ukraine was not genocide, Arseniy Roginsky, the head of the Russian historical and human rights society memorial, told Interfax on Thursday.
      The Kyiv Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the Bolshevik leaders of the USSR and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic were guilty of organizing the 1932-1933 Holodomor in Ukraine, which constituted genocide of Ukrainians. The court ordered that the criminal case be closed due to the death of the perpetrators of the genocide (Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Stanislav Kosior, Pavel Postyshev, etc.).
      "The fact that this crime has been legally classified is very important. There are many documents confirming the guilt in such crimes as organized famine and terror," Roginsky said.
      "However, I still don't understand which documents were used to prove that the famine in Ukraine was genocide. My opinion is that this famine was a crime against humanity, not genocide," he said.
      Roginsky believes famine was organized in the 1930s not only in Ukraine, but also in southern Russia and Kazakhstan.
      Memorial is a leading NGO on the post-Soviet space. It studies Stalin-era repression and rehabilitates victims of political terror in the USSR.
      "The 1930s famine was indeed a crime. It was founded on a criminal decision on total collectivization, The criminal methods used in this collectivization, the criminal failure to help the hungry people, etc. The people responsible for that are the Stalin leadership and the perpetrators of the will of the Stalin leadership," Roginsky told Interfax.
      "However, the 1930s famine is a common tragedy for Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The same people are responsible for this tragedy, we should study and understand this tragedy together, it would bring us closer, not divide us," Roginsky said.

      St. Petersburg Police Detain Neo-Nazi
      UCSJ, January 14, 2010

      Police in St. Petersburg, Russia detained a 17 year old neo-Nazi on unspecified charges, according to a January 11, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. While it is not clear what motivated the police to search the suspect's apartment initially, investigators found a variety of weapons in the apartment.


      Arsonists Target Jehovah's Witnesses Prayer Hall, Baptist Church in Volzhsky
      UCSJ, January 14, 2010

      Arsonists struck a Jehovah's Witness prayer hall and a Baptist church in Volzhsky, Russia (Volgograd region), according to a January 3, 2009 report by the Kavkavsky Uzel web site, which covers news in the Northern Caucasus. In both cases, the arsonists threw Molotov cocktails through the windows of the churches, but quick reactions from firefighters helped to minimize the damage. Police report that they are establishing leads on possible suspects.
      In another development, on December 29, 2009 an anti-extremism unit of the MVD in the Republic of Adygeya launched an investigation into a local Jehovah's Witness
      congregation, issuing 11 warnings to the congregation's leaders accusing them of "extremism." Since a court in Taganrog classified Jehovah's Witness as an extremist organization earlier this year, a growing crackdown on that faith has taken place in several Russian regions. Anti-extremism laws, originally meant to counter growing
      neo-Nazi violence and insurgents in the Caucasus, has increasingly been abused by federal and local authorities to persecute peaceful political opposition members and minority religious faiths.


      Tver Prosecutors Charge Neo-Nazi Gang With Extremism
      UCSJ, January 14, 2010

      Tprosecutors in Tver, Russia have completed their investigation into a neo-Nazi gang
      and sent charging documents to a court, according to a January 11, 2010 report by the RIA-Novosti news service. Five members of the "Nordic Front" face extremism charges after being accused of pasting neo-Nazi leaflets and painting graffiti on buildings around the city. All the suspects are minors from prosperous families, an increasingly common phenomenon in Russia.



      Kirill Positions Moscow Patriarchate for Expanded Political Role in 2010
      By: Paul Goble
      Window on Eurasia, January 4, 2010

      Vienna, January 4 – In the waning days of 2009, Patriarch Kirill made three statements designed among other things to position the Russian Orthodox Church for even greater role in Russian politics at home and abroad in the year to come, a role that some may welcome but that others will see as a challenge to secular values and human rights in both Russia and Europe.
      First, in what must be music to the ears of many in the Russian government, Kirill repeated his longstanding view that Russia represents a unique civilization and should therefore can and should ignore the evaluations offered by outside experts and institutions like the European Court of Human Rights (www.interfax-religion.ru/islam/?act=news&div=33588).
      Second, and as part of his campaign to build bridges with the Papacy and conservative Christians more generally, the outspoken Russian patriarch lashed out at Europeans for surrendering their cultural and political values to what he described in Gumilyev-style language as "passionate" Muslims (www.islamnews.ru/news-21966.html).
      And third, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church further integrated that institution with the state not by signing an expanded cooperation accord with the Academy of Government Service (www.mospat.ru/ru/2009/12/29/news10989/), and demanding that the powers that be support religions relative to their size (www.interfax-religion.ru/islam/?act=news&div=33590).
      In a speech to the Russian Academy of State Service, the patriarch said that Russians must not allow themselves to be judged "on the basis of alien criteria" and that it was long past time for Russians to stop trying to show outsiders that "we are good little boys, we live according to the same criteria, it is simply that we have certain shortcomings."
      Kirill's rejection of universal values, his insistence that Russia cannot be measured except in terms of itself, and his dismissal of the findings of Western governments and the European Court of Human Rights have figured in his speeches and writings long before he became patriarch.
      But now that he is patriarch, Kirill's overt hostility to common values takes on new meaning, reinforcing the attitudes of some in the Russian government including Vladimir Putin that no one has the right to judge anything Moscow does and that any attempts to do so will be met first with scorn and then with charges that their authors are guilty of the same or worse.
      Moreover, in this speech, Kirill went even further, arguing that if Russia follows Western values, which he said were defined by "an orientation to success, well-being and comfort," then there was real danger that Russia, as Europe already is doing will yield "to that `passionate force, which today the Islamic communities are exerting" there.
      As Kirill pointed out, "for Muslim countries, the religious factor in social life has always played a primary role while in Europe the situation is the reverse, and many Europeans have lost `the ability to sacrifice themselves, to give up their life for the Motherland," a risk that he insists Russia cannot afford.
      "If we will realize liberal ideas in social consciousness in a thoroughgoing manner (not in economics, in economics, liberalism is an appropriate phenomenon and an important factor, albeit with qualifications), then" Kirill insisted, "at the end we too will have a weak man who will defend neither his Motherland nor his family and friends."
      Two aspects of these remarks are worth noting. On the one hand and more than in the past, Kirill is using the language of Eurasianist Lev Gumilyev, an indication of his increasing tilt toward that element of the Russian nationalist spectrum, possibly on the basis of his judgment that that is the coming thing.
      And on the other, his outspoken defense of religious supremacy and traditional values not only will find support among many Russians who have had their lives upset by the turmoil of transition but perhaps even more among those around Pope Benedict XVI who has warned of many of the same things in his homilies and statements.
      Indeed, it appears likely that Kirill who very much hopes for a rapprochement politically if not theologically with the Vatican was directing his remarks last week as much at the Vatican as at the Kremlin, although the Russian powers that be would certainly welcome closer ties with Rome.
      Finally, after his speech, Kirill signed a new cooperation agreement with the Russian Academy of State Service, something that will open the way for even more priests to receive training there, and he indicated that in his view the government must support religious communities "proportionately to their presence in society."
      Kirill has pushed that idea before, but because the Moscow Patriarchate is seeking to expand the inter-religious council system down to the regional level, the realization of this idea is certain to touch off disputes not only about how many followers any particular faith has – no one knows for sure – but also about what religions should be represented.
      In the patriarch's view, only the four "traditional" religions of Russia -- Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism – have that right and only they can expect state support as protected faiths. If Kirill continues to push this view without modification, he may please the Russian powers that be, but he will offend many in Russia and in Europe as well.


      The Kremlin Kowtow: Why have Western leaders and intellectuals gone soft on Russia's autocracy?

      At a recent meeting with Russian liberals in Moscow, a well-known European intellectual started trying to convince them that, as he put it, "Russia is not a dictatorship these days. [President Dmitry] Medvedev is trying to liberalize the system, and with time Russia will become a democracy. You shouldn't try to hurry things." Not surprisingly, this advice provoked consternation among an audience that had expected at least some encouragement from Continental liberals.
      At a conference last month in Berlin, I witnessed another example of this divide. When I started to raise the question of democratic standards in Western-Russian relations, I was interrupted by another Western attendee. "You irritate us," he said. "International relations are not about values; they are about power!" If he is right, Russian liberals will have to reconsider their expectations about the Western opinion-leaders they have long counted on for moral support and understanding.
      A consensus seems to be growing among Western policymakers and intellectuals that Russia is not ready for liberalism and that there are even certain advantages to dealing with the illiberal political order built by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This may be why Western policy toward Russia has only served to shore up the Russian powers that are pursuing anti-Western interests. The results could be catastrophic -- not merely for the activists who are working to make Russia a free country, but for the moral authority of those in the West who preach liberty but practice something quite different.
      The U.S. "reset button" policy demonstrates this paradox nicely. The United States, of course, needs to have a dialogue with Russia on security issues, including arms control. But turning a nuclear arms pact into the main item on the agenda only reveals how reluctant both sides are to discuss the real issues at stake -- the fundamental political differences between the two societies. Instead, Moscow and Washington revive ghosts of the past and use a Cold-War era mechanism to try to imitate cooperation. In the end, the U.S.-Russian security dialogue will do little to help President Barack Obama accomplish his goals of reining in an aggressive Iran, ending the war in Afghanistan, and advancing a nonproliferation regime. Instead, it will work in the Kremlin's favor, bolstering Russia's great-power status and making it easier to prop up the current authoritarian system.
      The European Union's policy on Russia is also helping to maintain the Russian status quo, buying Russian energy resources and raw materials, and helping to finance Russia's oligarch class and strengthen the political elite. Having accepted Russia into European institutions -- the Council of Europe in particular -- European leaders try not to notice that Russia's system does not conform to the very principles these organizations are designed to promote. One could get the impression that, for the sake of advancing their economic interests, European governments have decided not to make an issue out of these principles, convincing themselves that Russia is simply not ready for them yet.
      Some Western leaders have no qualms about openly legitimizing the Russian regime. Gerhard Schroeder, who now serves on the board of the Gazprom-led Nord Stream pipeline project, is just the most well-known example of how morally flexible Western leaders can be for the right price. The former German chancellor behaves as Russia's world envoy, defending the Kremlin's policies with such enthusiasm that Germans have started to joke, "The parrot sitting on his shoulder speaks with a Russian accent." Another of Putin's friends is Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Kremlin advocate who long since seems to have stopped caring about his own reputation. And then there are France's leaders. In his time, former French President Jacques Chirac did not allow what he called "little" European countries to criticize Putin at EU-Russia summits. Chirac even awarded Putin France's highest decoration -- the insignia of Grand Croix of the Légion d'Honneur. He did it secretly, not wanting to infuriate the French public. Chirac's successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, not only thinks it proper to congratulate the Kremlin on manipulated elections, but actually allows the Kremlin to manipulate him politically. In August 2008, when France held the EU presidency, Sarkozy pretended not to notice that Moscow wasn't fulfilling two key provisions of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan to settle the Russian-Georgian conflict: withdrawing Russian troops and allowing international discussion on the final status of Georgia's breakaway regions. This gave the Russian elite further reason to see the European Union as an organization it could string along or simply ignore.


      ROAR: "The best of the best" to serve as chaplains in Russian army
      By: Sergei Borisov
      Russia Today, January 6, 2010

      Russia will be restoring military priesthood in 2010. The four main faiths will be able to have their chaplains in the armed forces.
      In July 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev supported the initiative of the country's Orthodox and other religious leaders to restore the institute of military chaplains. Russian armed forces will have about 250 chaplains by the end of 2010.
      The first 13 chaplains were already installed at the end of last year in military units of the North Caucasus military district and bases situated in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
      In the second stage, about 250 military chaplains will be deployed in military bases over the course of the whole year. The chaplains will serve in military units and military schools around the country and represent Russia's four main faiths: Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism.
      Currently, a central office of army chaplains is being created at the Ministry of Defense. It will be headed by an Orthodox priest and supported by a coordination committee involving representatives of traditional religions.
      Military priesthood existed in Russia from the 18th century up until the 1917 revolution. In 1918, about 3700 priests and 100 imams were dismissed from the armed forces.
      Now, chaplains will serve on staff in the army as deputy commanders of military units responsible for pedagogical work. They will be paid from the budget of the Ministry of Defense. However, about 400 priests already work with military units on a voluntary basis.
      The Russian Orthodox Church was working on widening its presence in education and military institutions during the last year. It has selected 30 priests to serve in the armed forces. According to archpriest Dmitry Smirnov, there are special requirements such as their state of health, and their level of intellectual and cultural development. "They should be the best of the best," he was quoted by the media as saying.
      Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has expressed hope that "this important step will yield good results in the near future."
      Two thirds of Russia's servicemen consider themselves religious, the Defense Ministry said. Some 83% of them are Orthodox, about 8% are Muslims, and 9% represent other faiths.
      "Discussions about the introduction of the institute of the military chaplains have been conducted for a long time," Vedomosti daily reported. "In 2006, the Office of Military Prosecutor proposed the priesthood to fight hazing in the army," the paper said.
      Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church sees their aim in spiritual work with Orthodox servicemen, the paper said. For this, it is enough to make it possible for servicemen to attend church or meet a priest, the daily said.
      "Chaplains on staff are needed probably only in those military units that wage combat operations or are based abroad," the paper said. Even then "it will be difficult to take into account interests of all faiths," it added.
      However, other faiths are also ready to work in the armed forces. Representative of Supreme mufti in Moscow Rastam Valeev thinks there will be at first many more Orthodox priests in the army, but he does not think "it is a big problem," Rossiyakaya Gazeta daily said.
      The institute of military chaplains exists in all great military powers except Russia, China and North Korea. Priesthood is represented in the armies of all NATO countries.
      "The Western powers, atheistic by nature, encourage and even pay for the presence of priests in their armies," Vesti TV channel said. "Despite all democratic freedoms, almost all the armies of old Europe have exclusively Christian chaplains, Protestants or Catholics," it added. "In Muslim countries, the chaplains are mullahs, and in Israel they are only rabbis."
      "In Russia, the question of the need for cooperation between the church and the armed forces has been discussing for more than 10 years, and so far there is no single opinion," the channel said. "It is particularly strange because traditions of regimental priests lasted for centuries."
      Now the institute of military chaplains "has to be restored from scratch," Vesti said, adding that "for almost a century the Russian Orthodox Church has been separated from the army."
      Meanwhile, with the participation of servicemen 83 churches have been built in military units and schools over recent years, the channel said.
      As chaplains start their work in the army on an experimental basis, the Russian parliament is preparing a special law on the priesthood in the armed forces, Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily said.
      The Public Chamber also discussed the issue in December. Aleksandr Kanshin, a chamber member, said that "measures taken by the country's leadership to modernize the army also concern its spiritual revival."


      Kirill Expanding Patriarchate's Missionary Effort in Russia and Abroad
      By: Paul Goble
      Window on Eurasia, January 6, 2010

      Vienna, January 6 – Patriarch Kirill has assumed tighter personal control over a much-expanded Missionary Department in the Patriarchate's central office, a move that highlights his commitment to increasing missionary activity by the Russian Orthodox Church not only inside the Russian Federation but abroad.
      And while the full ramifications of his moves in this regard -- announced yesterday on the website of that department (portal-missia.ru/node/192) -- remain uncertain, Kirill's new approach poses challenges to non-Orthodox and especially non-"traditional" faiths in Russia and represents an effort to link up with conservative Catholics in Europe.
      On December 31, that site said, Kirill confirmed proposals by department head Archbishop Ioann of Belgorod and Starooskolsk to reorganize and expand the Missionary Department, including in it sectors for various aspects of missionary activity and, what may be especially important, a collegium consisting of sector heads, theologians and missionaries.
      In its new form, the Patriarchal Missionary Department will consist of a Missionary Foundation, a central administrative apparatus, a sector for "Work with Bishopric Missionaries and Missionary Bases," a sector for "Anti-Sect Work and Spiritual Security," a training sector, a publications sector, and an analysis sector.
      Archbishop Ioann has now held the first session of the collegium of the expanded department, and that body has formed groups from priests and students of the Belgorod Missionary Seminary for conducting missionary activities in Siberia and the Far East this coming summer.
      The Belgorod see and its institutions have long had the reputation as being among the most conservative of Russian Orthodox places and also one of the most hostile to Protestants, Catholics and others that the Orthodox refer to as "sects." Consequently, Kirill's decision to rely on people from that bishopric says a lot about the direction the new department will take.
      In an initial comment on the new arrangements, Mikhail Zherebyatyev, an expert at the Moscow International Institute of Humanitarian and Political Research, pointed to the centralization of the Orthodox Church's missionary effort implicit in the announcement (http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=75405&cf=).
      The Missionary Department as Kirill is organizing it, Zherebyatyev said, "represents a rejection of the practice under the late Patriarch Aleksii II of autonomous co-existence of church-wide synodical departments and analogous profile subdivisions existing directly within the eparchates."
      That of course is part and parcel of Kirill's much-commented-upon effort to create a genuine "power vertical" within the Church, but it also suggests, Zherebyatyev continues, that "de facto the Missionary Department will cease to be a synodical one and is being transformed into a Patriarchal one," controlled by and answerable only to Kirill.
      At the same time, however, the religious affairs expert cautioned against overdramatizing what Kirill is about in this case."What is taking place," he said, "does not mean a significant destruction of the existing administrative structure [of the Church] by means of the activization of the departments of the Moscow Patriarchate."
      Zherebyatyev's cautionary note is important, but there are other indications besides the shake-up in the Missionary Department that point to a radical expansion in missionary activity under Kirill. One of the most intriguing of these developments was reported this week by VOA (www1.voanews.com/english/news/religion/Russian-Orthodox-Church-Opens-its-First-Seminary-Outside-the-Former-Soviet-Union-80643007.html).
      The Moscow Patriarchate "has opened its first seminary outside the former Soviet Union," the American radio station said, housing the small start- up – it has only a dozen students now -- in a former Catholic convent and drawing students primarily from Russia and the other post-Soviet republics but with plans to attract people from elsewhere as well.
      Aleksandr Sinyakov, the director of the seminary, told VOA that his church "needs more than ever good specialists who know not only the life of Christian churches in western Europe, and in the West generally, but also who know the theology, the history of the Catholic Church and other Orthodox churches."
      While he did not point to his institution as a missionary center, the seminary at Epinay- sous-Senart will clearly be used to expand contacts with Catholics and other non-Orthodox faithful in Western Europe, something that is very much part of Kirill's allied effort to form a "conservative" Christian alliance between Moscow and the Vatican.


      Crimean Roulette: Though Violence in Russian-Ukrainian Confrontation Remains Unlikely to Escalate, Politicians on both Sides Should Start Thinking How to React if It Does
      By Andreas Umland
      Russia Profile, January 7, 2010

      On December 26, 2009, the Crimean port city of Sevastopol saw yet another round of confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian nationalists. A group of activists from the All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda," Ukraine's largest explicitly nationalist party, tried to conduct what they called a "March Against Illegal Immigration" through the town that hosts Russia's Black Sea fleet. As was to be expected, they soon encountered a pro-Russian counter-demonstration. Although some violence did occur, Sevastopol's police was able to keep the two groups apart, and to prevent the situation escalating.
      A straightforward political interpretation of the incident is not an easy task. The Russian nationalists labelled their Ukrainian counterparts "fascists." That is a not entirely inappropriate label for the members of "Svoboda" - an organization that has grown out of the manifestly ultra-nationalist Social-National Party of Ukraine. Some of the "Svoboda" demonstrators, at their Sevastopol march, raised their arms in the Roman salute, as used once by the NSDAP and today by neo-Nazis worldwide. However, the pro-Russia counter-demonstrators, according to a report by "Sevastopol Life," also included activists from the Vitrenko Bloc. This grouping's leader, Natalia Vitrenko, has for several years been in an open alliance with Russia's so-called International Eurasian Movement. The Eurasian Movement's leader, Alexander Dugin, in turn, has repeatedly eulogized fascism in general, and the Waffen-SS in particular. The neo-Eurasianist leader once praised SS Obegruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich, the Holocaust's initial organizer, as a "convinced Eurasian." Dugin has made many similar statements, and it is difficult to believe that Vitrenko and her entourage have not noticed his fascist inclinations. This makes the Vitrenko people's use of "fascism" as a derogatory term for their Ukrainian opponents sound odd.
      Whatever the exact meaning of the incident, similar future events are probable, especially on the Crimean peninsula. In the worst case, they could get out of control and provoke bloodshed. In both Ukraine and Russia, there are politicians and political groups who, for domestic reasons, would benefit from such an escalation. To be sure, most Ukrainian and Russian citizens would be horrified by the idea of a violent confrontation between their co-nationals. Yet, a small circle of determined extremists, whether within Russia or Ukraine, may be able to succeed in provoking such an escalation - especially if the confrontation, such as the last one, contains pro-fascist activists on both sides.
      What would be the repercussions of bloodshed? In Russia and to a lesser degree in Ukraine, many would feel it necessary to react decisively. One can easily imagine the president, prime minister or pseudo-parliament of Russia issuing yet more offensive statements concerning the Ukrainian nation state and political class. Worse, in both Russia and Ukraine, state and party officials might start engaging in public debate on how to respond appropriately to violence in Sevastopol or elsewhere. If this triggered a "patriotic bidding war" between politicians trying to demonstrate superior allegiance to the supposed national interests of their countries, it would sooner or later include the discussion of a military "solution." Both Russian and Ukrainian politicians may, in principle, understand that the deployment of troops would not result in decisive victory for either side. Yet, emotional public debates in Russia on how to properly "protect" ethnic Russians in Crimea, or an outburst of patriotism by Ukrainians worried about the sovereignty of their young state, would put pressure on both countries' commanders-in-chief. It might create a dynamic that could supersede rational calculations of the actual pros and cons of military intervention. At least Russia has, in Georgia, shown that it has no qualms about rapidly deploying regular troops beyond its borders in order "to protect" people whom it regards as "Russia's own" and perceives as being physically threatened.
      In such a situation, Kiev would have to remember that military confrontation with Russia should be avoided at almost all costs. As the case of South Ossetia has shown, NATO is not prepared to step in for a non-affiliated state. True, the Ukrainian army would be a much more formidable opponent for the Russian one than Georgia's armed forces. Yet a military confrontation even at only one circumscribed location, like Sevastopol, would have repercussions within other Ukrainian regions with large ethnic Russian communities. Even an unlikely Ukrainian victory in a relatively short war in Crimea would put the integrity of the Ukrainian state as a whole under strain.
      Russia, too, should not have any illusions. True, it has a large conventional army, is a nuclear superpower, and would be the more likely "winner" of such a war (though "victory" would surely not come as easily as in Georgia). Russia may even be able to "re-unite" with Crimea. Yet, such a military "success" would be costly, on the international scene. While Russia has partially succeeded in portraying one unfriendly post-Soviet leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, as a "madman," it would be more difficult to convince the world that yet another democratically-elected post-Soviet government is "mad" as well. Whatever spin Russia's political technologists may come up with, most people around the world would start thinking that the real "madmen" sit in Moscow, rather than Tbilisi or Kiev.
      A Russian-Ukrainian war would also trigger a full-scale second Cold War with the West, with effects on economic relations, cultural exchange, travel freedom, etc. The EU-Russia summits, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia's membership in the Council of Europe, Russian participation in the Eurovision contest - these and many more joint events, common projects and Russian-Western links would be put into question. The International Criminal Court may, as in the case of Serbia's former leadership, issue arrest warrants for Russian leaders.
      Moreover, after the de facto annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a second territorial expansion of Russia would prompt the leaders of such countries as Belarus, Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan reconsider their alliances with Moscow. These and other Russian allies in Europe and Asia were already conspicuously silent during and after the Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008. None of them has recognized either Abkhazia or South Ossetia's "independence." Another intervention on the territory of a Russian neighbor may let even those few international partners that Moscow still has today look for security and cooperation elsewhere. In a war in Crimea, Russia may, after the death of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians, be able to "get back" its treasured peninsula. But the price it would have to pay would be far-reaching international isolation, for years if not decades to come.
      While these scenarios sound fantastic today, they are feasible once bloodshed has started. As groups who benefit politically from increasing Russian-Ukrainian animosity are on the rise in both countries, the likelihood of the situation escalating in- rather than de-creases. Against this background, the leaders of both Russia and Ukraine should keep reminding themselves what military intervention from either of them would eventually lead to.


      Review of: A Little War that Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West by Ronald Asmus. Palgrave Macmillan £20 pp272
      By Max Hastings
      The Sunday Times, January 10, 2010

      On August 7, 2008, Georgian forces started a battle, in their own country but on territory dominated by Moscow-backed separatists, against the Russian army. Five days later, overwhelmingly superior Russian formations occupied western Georgia, with tanks less than two hours from Tbilisi, the capital. Though they withdrew after a negotiation brokered by France's Nicolas Sarkozy, the disputed provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are today nominally independent Moscow satellites. Ronald Asmus, an American strategy guru who served at the State Department under Bill Clinton, says the conflict was a turning point in relations between Moscow and the West: "There is little doubt that this war marked a new Russian policy of rollback and constraint."
      Vladimir Putin and his acolytes are no longer willing to endure sensitive states on Russia's borders opting for membership of the EU or — worse — Nato. More than two years ago, Putin told Georgia's president, Mikheil Saak-ashvili, that he must choose between friendship with Russia or the West, and made plain the consequences of favouring the latter. More recently, Russia's president Medvedev has said: "Russia, like other countries in the world, has regions where it has privileged interests." This goes to the core of the West's dilemma about Georgia, Ukraine and the central Asian republics. Do we recognise Moscow's implicit, if not explicit, suzerainty, throwing out principles of democratic free choice for those societies?
      Asmus's book, which reads more like the work of a Washington neocon than of a Democrat, argues that before the 2008 war the West was mistaken not to offer decisive support for Georgia's aspiration to join Nato, to install EU monitors in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and to send tough deterrent signals to Moscow.
      The Bush administration feted Saakashvili, endorsed his aspirations and loved the fact that Georgians love America. Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain joined in nominating Saakashvili for the Nobel peace prize. Although Washington warned him repeatedly not to tangle with the Russians militarily, he deluded himself that his old buddy George W would not leave him hung out to dry.
      In the event, when the Georgians opened fire on the Russians, vice-president Dick Cheney was characteristically eager to consider US military options. But all the sane members of the Bush administration in its dying months ruled out intervention. The United States made a limp-wristed response to Russian aggression — which the invasion of Georgia certainly was — because its global authority had been wrecked in Iraq.
      This left Sarkozy to negotiate in Moscow, where the following memorable exchange took place on August 12. Putin: "I want to hang Saakashvili by the balls." Sarkozy, startled: "Hang him?" Putin: "Why not? The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein." Sarkozy: "But do you want to end up like Bush?" Putin: "Ah, there you have a point."
      The Americans are today paying heavily for their undisguisedly triumphalist treatment of Russia since 1990. Their stance as cold-war victors has fuelled Russian bitterness and paranoia. In stark contrast to China, Russia has nothing with which to impress the world save oil, gas and a capacity to <br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.