Friday, April 29, 2016

A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 29

Paul Goble

          Staunton, April 29 -- The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.

          Consequently, Windows on Eurasia presents a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 29th such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, once again, one could have put out such a listing every day -- but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1.      FMS Wants to Require Military Service Certificate from Those Seeking to Renounce Russian Citizenship. The Federal Migration Service has indicated that it wants to require all those seeking to renounce their Russian citizenship to prove that they have served in the military. The measure is obviously part of an effort to fill draft quotas, but it means that those who don’t have military service may be trapped (

2.      Russia Again Ranks 148th on Media Freedom.  For the third year in a row, Russia ranks 148th among the countries of the world in terms of freedom of the media, Reporters without Borders says (

3.      Muscovites to Collect Food to Send to Villages. How bad are things in Russian villages? Pretty awful to judge from the fact that a group of activists in Moscow, where most people are having to tighten their belts as a result of the economic crisis, have announced plans to collect food to send to even more hard-pressed Russian villagers ( and

4.      Putin’s Health Care ‘Optimization’ has had the Opposite Effect, Accounting Chamber Says. Vladimir Putin’s “optimization” campaign in health care, a euphemism for serious cutbacks in medical facilities and personnel, has significantly worsened the situation for most Russians, the Accounting Chamber says (  And the future for those with health problems may be even worse: the Duma is proposing to “boost” payments to families with invalids by five cents a month (

5.      Entire Urals City Refuses to Pay for Repairs on Housing Stock.  The Urals city of Asbestos – which the organizers of Putin’s call in show did not recognize as being a town in Russia – have declared that none of its residents will pay for repairs on housing stock, a kind of protest that Moscow will be forced to respond to in some way (

6.      Saratov Rector Warns Students Against Contacts with Foreigners.  Aleksey Chumachenko, the rector of Saratov State University, does not want his students to have any contacts with foreigners warning of consequences if they do (

7.      Will Yekaterinburg Erect a Statue of Drunken Yeltsin? Some opponents of the first Russian president in Yekaterinburg want to put up a statue of Boris Yeltsin leaning on a post because of drunkenness, but many local leaders say that is highly offensive and have pledged to block it (

8.      Russians Aren’t Behind Return to 1937, Eidman Says. There is little or no public demand among Russians for a return to 1937 as a way of dealing with the country’s troubles, according to Moscow commentator Igor Eidman (  Meanwhile, another writer has suggested that some three million Russians would have to be fired if a genuine lustration were to be carried out (

9.      Hundreds of Animals Dying in Moscow Shelter Because of Inhumane Conditions. Animal shelters in Moscow are anything but: Conditions are now so bad in some of them that “hundreds” of animals are dying in agony, activists say (

10.  Oligarchs Now Favorite Russian TV Heroes.  Oligarchs may be criticized in the media, but they are now the most popular hero figures on Russian television (

11.  Stavropol Takes Another Step Away from the North Caucasus.  Stavropol kray which has never been happy about being lumped with the non-Russian republics of the North Caucasus has now taken another step to isolate itself from them: It has left the North Caucasus economic organization which it had been a member since the founding (

12.  Tatarstan Will Retain Its Presidency At Least Until After Duma Elections.  Tatarstan, the only republic within the Russian Federation, still has a president even though that has been illegal under Russian law since the start of this year.  Now, Moscow commentators say, Kazan is likely to keep it at least until after the Duma elections because the Kremlin doesn’t want to spark a new dispute (

13.  Izhevsk Mayor says Russia Needs a Tsar. Yuri Tyurin has joined his voice to those commentators who say the best way forward for Russia is a return to the tsarist past (

                And six others from countries neighboring Russia:
1.      90 Percent of Russian Promises to Crimean Tatars have Been Lies.  An examination of the record of Moscow’s promises to the Crimean Tatars since the Russian Anschluss of their homeland on the Ukrainian peninsula finds that 91 percent of Russian statements about them have been lies (  Meanwhile, in another recrudescence of Soviet behavior, pupils in Russian controlled parts of the Donbas are  now being encouraged to inform on their families and fellow students (
2.      Can Kazakhstan Afford Trilingualism?  Ever more people are weighing in about the costs that Kazakhstan will have to bear if it follows Nursultan Nazarbayev’s proposal to make the population trilingual. Some of the objections appear to have a Russian origin; but others are a reflection of economic calculations by Kazakhs (
3.      Kazakhs Protest Sale of Land to Foreigners. Declaring that the sale of land to foreigners creates a Trojan horse kind of threat to their country, Kazakhs have come out in large numbers to oppose lifting restrictions on land sales to anyone but a citizen of Kazakhstan.  The protest appears to be directed at both Russians and Chinese (
4.      Tajiks Say They Can Live without Refrigerators But Not without Televisions.  A sign of the times in Central Asia: Tajiks say they will purchase televisions even if they have to do without refrigerators (
5.      Turkmen Says His Country has ‘Many Plusses’ But Democracy is Not Among Them.  A resident of Turkmenistan, probably the most closed authoritarian state in the post-Soviet region, says that his country has many good things but democracy is not among them, perhaps the politest way to criticize Ashgabat without the risk of punishment (
6.      Uzbekistan Plans to Impose Up to Eight Years in Prison for Internet Propaganda of Extremism.  Tashkent has announced plans to send those who use the Internet to advance extremist goals to prison for up to eight years (

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