Thursday, April 27, 2017

Demolition of Khrushchoby Now a Chilling Echo of 1999 Apartment Bombings



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 27 – Vladimir Putin ensured his rise to power by orchestrating the blowing up of apartment buildings in Moscow and restarting Russia’s war against Chechnya.  But he may have set in train his fall from power by supporting Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin’s plan to demolish the aging five-storey apartment buildings known as “khrushchoby.”

            That is because the second action eerily echoes the first in two ways. On the one hand, it represents an attack on the rights of Russians by their own government that only the most horrific but self-confident dictators would take and thus offends more than just those who are immediately affected, as some are pointing out (echo.msk.ru/blog/varlamov_i/1970254-echo/).

            And on the other, both the bombings in 1999 and the demolition of apartment blocks now highlight the extent to which the Kremlin and its allies will do everything they can to defend themselves and their allies in the Russian “elite” even as they show no respect at all for ordinary Russians, their rights, and even their lives.

            One of the most horrifying aspects of the 1999 explosions and perhaps the clearest evidence of Putin’s culpability was that a survey of local newspapers in Moscow at that time found no obituaries for those who had died in the bombings, something that suggests the buildings were targeted because those who killed were not politically significant to Putin.

            Now, the RBC news agency reports that the Moscow city authorities say they won’t be tearing down khrushchoby in three city districts populated by the elites and their extended families, a limitation implying a similar calculation by the authoriteis to the one they made in 1999 (rbc.ru/society/20/04/2017/58f88cfb9a79477b1b148d51  and echo.msk.ru/news/1970824-echo.html).

            After blowing up the apartments in 1999, Putin moved quickly to blame the Chechens and to restart the war, actions that precluded much discussion about what he had done, all of the evidence including the failed effort in Ryazan captured on television footage pointing to him notwithstanding. 

            But now, after 17 years in power, Putin can’t blame the khrushchoby destruction on outside forces, his preferred tactic to deflect attention from what he is doing.  Instead, according to Moscow commentators, he is supporting an action which offends not just the immediate victims but also all Russians.

            That is because he is striking at the right of Russians to own their own homes, a right that Russians increasingly value as one of the most positive achievements from the demolition of the USSR and thus offending far more than the tens of thousands of Muscovites and likely others who will be “deported” from their homes now (echo.msk.ru/blog/varlamov_i/1970254-echo/).

            Indeed, as Moscow political analyst Yekaterina Schulmann puts it, “property for our contemporary is a sacred thing, a super value which it is better not to touch” and that an attack on it like the one Putin has launched could lead to “democracy via demolition” (echo.msk.ru/blog/schulmann_video/1970522-echo/).

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Daghestan’s Long-Haul Truckers Detail Their Grievances in Appeal to Putin



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 26 – While some drivers are going home briefly to plant their gardens (the-village.ru/village/city/city/264264-potatoes-cant-wait) and while officials are claiming that the strike is collapsing (md-gazeta.ru/news/20119), striking drivers in Daghestan today issued an appeal to Vladimir Putin detailing their grievances (echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/1970466-echo/).

            Arguing that the current situation in the transportation sector is “unjust,” the drivers say that they have five demands they are confident will “improve” the situation. These demands include: complete cancellation of the Plato system, an end to the transportation tax, better weighing of trucks and cargoes, better work rules, and a new system for calculating fuel taxes.

            Significantly, the drivers base their arguments on constitutional grounds, arguing that the Plato system and other rules violate particular provisions of the 1993 Russian Constitution as well as specific Russian legislation.

            Other developments in the long-haul truckers’ strike during the last 24 hours include:

·         One commentator says that the truckers strike will combine with protests against the destruction of the khrushchoby into what he calls a Russian Maidan (salt.zone/radio/7242).

·         Fears among ever more drivers that the authorities are going to stage one or more provocations against them (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/301686/).

·         A widespread decision among drivers no longer to watch Moscow television and indications that the younger drivers are even more radical than their elders (ru.krymr.com/a/28451508.html  and  onkavkaz.com/news/1657-orhan-dzhemal-dalnoboischiki-dagestana-obrecheny-no-protiv-novogo-pokolenija-kavkaza-rosgvardij.html).

·         Some truckers say that the regional authorities are so clumsy in their  handling of the strike that soon they will be calling on drivers to name their children “Plato” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/04/26/72296-yaytsa-revolyutsii).

·         Residents of Kirov have announced a demonstration in support of the strike for tomorrow (kirov-portal.ru/news/poslednie-novosti/mintrans-rf-priglasil-kirovskikh-dalnoboyshchikov-obsudit-puti-resheniya-problem-24014/).

·         Drivers in Sakha say they will convene a republic congress of drivers on May 5 (yakutia.info/article/180014).

Moscow City Officials, Worried by Anger over Plan to Tear Down Khrushchoby, Seek to Contain It



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 24 – The Moscow city government’s plan to tear down the five-storey apartment blocks known as “khrushchoby” and shift their residents to other locations to sell the land under them for development has infuriated residents and led to announcements of plans for protests (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/04/tearing-down-khrushchoby-from.html).

            That has prompted officials in the Moscow mayor’s office to meet behind closed doors  to decide how to contain or at least deflect this anger so that the plan will not generate the kind of meetings that could grow into mass demonstrations like those in 2011-2012 (znak.com/2017-04-24/meriya_moskvy_provela_s_rukovoditelyami_prefektur_zakrytoe_sovechanie_po_snosu_domov).

            According to those who took part in these meetings, Znak journalist Yekaterina Vinokurova says, the mayor’s office “considers that the best way to stifle [public] dissatisfaction is by personal discussions” with the people, noting this year there are in the city, “elections to local organs” and United Russia candidates “must enter into dialogue with residents.”

            Officials expect that public anger will ebb somewhat when on May 10, the city publishes the list of the first apartment buildings to be torn down.  Those living in others may conclude that they have escaped the axe this time around and be less inclined to support or participate in any protests.

            But at the same time, the city and even the federal government have made statements designed to reduce anger: The major has said that people will not be forced to move out of the section of the city in which they now live, and Putin has said no force will be involved thus in this process (republic.ru/posts/82313).

            That may or may not be enough. According to Moscow’s vice mayor, Anastasiya Rakov, “Moscow is a big village, and as soon as in any district appear two or three opposition figures appear, their complaints are heard throughout Moscow about problems that as a result acquire immediately a city-wide significance.” One might even add an all-Russian one too.