Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Brezhnev-Era Origins of Putin Elite Root of Russia’s Misfortunes, Krasheninnikov Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 16 – “The true root” of Russia’s misfortunes now, Fyodor Krasheninnikov says, is that Vladimir Putin and his entourage were formed as personalities in the Brezhnev era,” frightened by the excesses of democracy in the 1990s, and have been able since then to exclude from politics “all sincere and ideologically committed people.”

            Because of their success in shutting down social lifts, the Yekaterinburg political analyst says, Russia is now ruled by “the very same people who at the end of the 1970s portrayed themselves as convinced communists, in the 1980s as supporters of perestroika and new thinking, in the mid-1990s as ‘experienced businessmen,’ and then as preservers of ‘everything good that was in the USSR” (snob.ru/selected/entry/127983).

            But because of this constant change in public position, these people in fact have come to believe in “nothing besides power and money,” Krasheninnikov says.  “They do not believe in sincerity or conviction or in volunteers or in honest elections. They live with the conviction that people go to meetings only if they are collected in buses or mobilized at work” and are paid.

            They assume that people get involved in politics “only from selfishness because it never comes into their heads the stupid though that some enter politics for the public good and sacrifice their personal wealth and take risks for their convictions. They in general never took risks about anything” – and they assume everyone else is just like them.

            “Worst of all,” the analyst continues, their experiences of politics in Russia in the 1990s has led them to form a false picture of the way the world is organized not only within Russia’s borders but abroad. “Everywhere,” they assume, “politics is exactly the same: no one anywhere believes in anything [and] all elections are lies.”

            According to Krasheninnikov, “the cynicism and unprincipledness of the late Soviet elite are what has transformed democracy in Russia into a pathetic farce.”  Until those formed in the Soviet period leave the scene, this situation will continue and Russia’s prospects for the future will remain bleak.

            “The main less from all this,” he says, is that “one should never entrust the construction of a new system to those were educated in the old one, who not simply passed through the school of state cynicism and hypocrisy but even became successes in it: these are the most horrific people of all.”

Nearly Half of Young Russians in Far East Don’t want Marriage or a Family


Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 16 – According to a new survey of 9500 young people aged 21 to 35 in the Russian Far East, 47 percent of people don’t want to get married or have children, 27 percent are ready to marry but not to have children, and only 26 percent saying they want both, figures that make the achievement of Vladimir Putin’s demographic goals there impossible.

            The survey was conducted by the Black Cube Center for Social Innovation. Both its results and their implications were discussed today by the center’s director Yury Kolomeytsev on the Regnum news portal. He says that no one should think that this pattern is going to change anytime soon (regnum.ru/news/society/2310688.html).

                “The most unfavorable regions of the Far East from the point of view of planned fertility among the population under the age of 35 are Khabarovsk kray, Magadan oblast, Kamchatka, Chukotka and Primorsky kray,” all predominantly ethnic Russian regions, the researcher continues.

            The situation is somewhat better in Sakhalin and in Sakha, where 45 and 39 percent of young people say they are planning to marry and have children.  In Sakha, “only a third of those surveyed said they were negatively inclined to the creation of the family, and in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast and the Amur oblast, this figure was still lower, 32 percent.”

            According to Kolomeytsev, “favorable conditions for the natural growth of demography can arise only in those Far Eastern regions in which the local population is prepared to remain and continue its family life. In subjects with high labor and educational migration, one should not expect any real improvement in the demographic situation in the coming years.”

            Overall demographic numbers confirm this. Primorsky kray, he points out, continues to decline and to decline at ever increasing rates,” exactly the opposite of what Putin has called for.  In Sakhalin, the government has had to intervene massively to support the increasingly impoverished population. Its actions may explain why there is less opposition to families there.

            But the task of regional governments in this regard is enormous. In Sakhalin, “47 percent of all monetary income is concentrated in the hands of 20 percent of the population. The remainder live in poverty, with 1.4 percent having incomes less than 7,000 rubles [a month or 110 US dollars]. The incomes of Sakhalin’s poor are 16 times less than those of its rich.

            The Sakhalin authorities claim they have reduced the number of those in poverty in 2016, but Regnum notes, “experts consider that [the people involved] have not had their material position improved but simply have left for other regions in search of a better life.”   

Armenia on Its Way to Becoming ‘a Second Ukraine,’ Some Commentators Say



Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 16 – A few days ago, Karine Gevorkyan, a leading Yerevan orientalist, said that Armenia, as a result of the shortcomings of its own government, the influence of the Armenian diaspora, and the work for Western governments, is rapidly drifting toward becoming “a second Ukraine” opposed to Moscow and allied with the West.

            She complained that Armenians favorably disposed to Moscow “do not now have a single pro-Russian resource or any pro-Russian politicians … we have lost all this” and thus the country finds itself at the edge of an explosion like the one that has already occurred in Ukraine (vestnikkavkaza.ru/news/Armeniya-prevratitsya-dlya-Rossii-v-novuyu-Ukrainu.html).

            In comments to Vestnik Kavkaza, two Russian experts suggest that Gevorkyan’s suggestions are no exaggeration and that both Moscow and Yerevan should not only be worried but should take immediate steps to change the course of events the orientalist suggests will lead to what they say would be a disaster.

            Nikita Isayev, director of the Moscow Institute of Current Economics, says that the situation she describes is the result of the acceptance of the view that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is “the main pro-Russian politician in the republic.” That has made Armenia “a hostage” to his declining popularity. 

            The current “level of trust in Sargsyan,” he continues, “and as a result to Russia as well now is extremely low.”  And what makes this especially dangerous is that “Russia has not demonstrated any clear political line with regard to Armenia,” something anti-Russian forces have been quick to exploit.

            Given that Armenians view Sargsyan and his institutions as pro-Russian, they are increasingly demanding “a turn to the West,” and Yerevan is doing that, developing links with the European Union and even NATO.  And local media, with only a few exceptions, is promoting this trend or at least not opposing it.

            “Of course,” Isayev continues, “Western special services, in the first instance, English, French and American intelligence agencies” are playing a role, “and their work is bringing results,” which carry with them “significant external risks for Russia” including the possible “loss of the last official Russian advance post in the Transcaucasus at the gates to the Middle East.”

            The overall trend is not good, he says; and “the most radical scenario is a possible direct armed conflict in which Russia may find itself opposed by Armenia as a member of NATO or [at least] an ally of the North Atlantic alliance.”  That outcome is so bad that Moscow must deploy “’soft force’” to ensure it doesn’t happen.

            Similar efforts need to be made “everywhere on the post-Soviet space” because “Armenia is an ally on which like a litmus test are visible all the difficulties” the Russian government now faces. Most important, Moscow must turn away from oligarchic powers and work with small and mid-sized industry and with a variety of political forces rather than just those of Sargsyan.

            Isayev’s views are echoed by Sergey Markov, director of the Moscow Institute for Political Research, who called on Yerevan to take more active steps to suppress “foreign financing of anti-Russian campaigns.”  To that end, Moscow and Yerevan must devote more attention to the dangers ahead if they do nothing.

            “The risks are quite serious,” he says, “either ‘a Maidan’ or the evolution of the Armenian government along an anti-Russian path” which “cold lead to the exit of Armenia from the Eurasian Union and to an expansion of military cooperation with NATO.”  Indeed, Yerevan is already taking part in NATO-led exercises.

            If things continue, Markov argues, “Armenia could be transformed into yet another state hostile to Russia, one like Ukraine or the Baltics or Moldova.”  That isn’t what the Armenian people want, he says; but unless steps are taken, the oligarchic regime may ignore their wishes and pursue only its own.

            Yerevan must take the lead in opposing this shift, he argues, with Moscow playing only a supporting role. It must “close foreign foundations which are involved in the unleashing of anti-Russian propaganda” and even more “must adopt a law banning anti-Russian propaganda to the extent it always has catastrophic consequences for these countries.”