Daily Archives: December 18, 2006

Remembering Russian Oppression in Kazakhstan

The photo shows Municipal workers renovating a monument to victims of the Zheltoksan protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Dec. 17-18, 1986 protest was joined by thousands across the then-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Known as Zheltoksan, or “December,” the demonstration was triggered by Moscow’s appointment of an ethnic Russian as the vast Central Asian republic’s new Communist boss, and constitutes on of a number of memorable examples in which the slave peoples of the the Russian colononies stood up for freedom. Let’s not forget that, however bleak their prospects at the time, they ultimately won. Yesterday, we reported on how Russian pop music is still singing about how glorious it was when Russia occupied and enslaved Kazakhstan, so it is quite fitting to remember the real past. Russians themselves need to take a page from the Kazakh playbook if they want to have any chance at a decent future.

The Associated Press reports:

ALMATY, Kazakhstan – They see themselves as patriots who shed blood for their freedom in a rebellion that foreshadowed the demise of the Soviet Union.

But the Kazakhs who took to the streets in mass protests in December 1986 were dismissed as drunkards and hooligans by the Communist authorities who crushed their uprising. Now, 20 years later, these middle-aged former rebels feel their sacrifice and struggle have never been recognized.

Instead, this weekend’s anniversary of the revolt in Kazakhstan — a nation that spans Central Asia’s steppes from European Russia to the Chinese border — is being kept low-key by a government with reason to tread cautiously.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev was Kazakhstan’s no. 2 communist official when KGB forces were sent in to deal with the estimated 30,000 people who joined the protest of Dec. 17-18, 1986. Nazarbayev became the Communist Party chief in 1989, and has ruled the country as president since its independence in 1991.

Then there’s neighboring Russia, still maneuvering to keep ex-Soviet satellites within its orbit and apt to use economic coercion, as it has shown in Ukraine and Georgia. Kazakh oil, the vast and arid nation’s biggest export earner, flows through pipelines that cross Russia.

Moreover, about 30 percent of the population of 15 million is ethnic Russian, and may be antagonized by a lavish celebration of a resoundingly anti-Kremlin chapter of Kazakh history.

Memories of the protests run strong among Kazakhs, especially those from the generation of ’86, who feel the whole truth of the country’s 70 years under Soviet rule has not been told, nor any of its oppressors held to account.

The clash between public sentiment and the establishment was evident at one of the few low-profile events sanctioned by the state in memory of the uprising.

At a contest of poet-musicians, Rinat Shangayev sang that Almaty, the city swept by the 1986 rebellion, should be recognized as “the capital of freedom,” and that “maybe we are not advancing as a country because truth isn’t told openly.”

The jury immediately asked him to stop, but the audience shouted “Go on!” and he did.

The 1986 protests, known simply as Zheltoksan (December), were triggered by Moscow’s appointment of an ethnic Russian as Kazakhstan’s Communist Party boss.

“We wanted to say that Kazakhs wanted to decide their fate by themselves,” says Bakhytbek Imanqozha, one of the organizers of the protest who at the time was a 25-year-old arts student and today heads a public group called the Spirit of Zheltoksan.

Soldiers beat protesters with shovels and chased them with dogs; volunteers mobilized from factories in Almaty subdued protesters with iron rods and fire engines sprayed demonstrators with water in freezing temperatures.

Four years later, as the Soviet Union was crumbling, Kazakh intellectuals convened a public commission that concluded that more than 1,700 protesters were injured, some 8,500 were detained, and dozens were jailed.

Mukhtar Shakhanov, the writer and lawmaker who headed the commission, said a KGB officer testified that 168 protesters were killed. But that figure remains unconfirmed, he said, as most material about Zheltoksan is in Moscow, locked in Communist Party and KGB archives.

That silence angers many Kazakhs. The opposition Svoboda Slova newspaper called last year for “our own Nuremberg trial” to define the role of Nazarbayev and other former Communist officials in putting down the uprising.

The state does not airbrush Zheltoksan out of history — it recognizes the event as a struggle for independence. But Kazakh history textbooks devote only two paragraphs to it.

Highlighting the government’s ambivalence, Kazakhstan only this year got a monument to the uprising, unveiled by Nazarbayev at a ceremony that was inconspicuous and was held in September — well ahead of the anniversary.

Kazakh political analyst Eduard Poletayev says the government, which rules a flawed democracy and is accused of having authoritarian instincts, is wary of glorifying a movement that exercised the right of free speech and assembly.

“Recognizing leaders of a public protest as national heroes could be taken as encouragement of similar demonstrations against the present government,” Poletayev said.

The next time you hear someone (well, a Russophile dolt rationalizing the neo-Soviet Union) trashing Kazakhstan for not yet becoming fully democratic, tell them about the way in which Russia sucked the nation’s lifeblood for decades and then ask them what’s Russia’s excuse.

More Russian Disgrace, and Kasparov Speaks to the Times

On Saturday, we reported on how the Russian people had disgraced themselves and the memory of a great Russian patriot by neglecting the Andrei Sakharov journalism awards. The ignominy continued: Over the weekend, only about 2,000 people (some pictured, left), many associated with extremist political factions, protested the Kremlin’s abolition of minimum voter turnout rules in Moscow, under a coalition group called “The Other Russia” led by Garry Kasparov. Though the event could have served the double protest of protesting the Kremlin’s involvement in the sensational recent spate of killings of its adversaries, the Russian people once again disappointed the West and betrayed their children by ignoring the opportunity entirely, even as the Kremlin did all it could to snuff out the protest with arrests and other intimidating behavior both before and during the march. The International Herald Tribune reported:

About 2,000 Russians rallied on Saturday in central Moscow to protest recent electoral law changes and what the demonstrators said is the Kremlin’s growing authoritarianism. The demonstration, organized by several opposition groups who united under the banners of the Other Russia movement, had originally planned to march down a main Moscow avenue in what was dubbed the “March of Those Who Disagree,” but city authorities banned the march, allowing only a rally instead. Organizers had vowed to go-ahead with the march despite the ban, but the activists ended up only holding a demonstration and the crowd began dispersing after 1 p.m. Moscow time, just over an hour into the event. The activists held banners reading “Russia without (President Vladimir) Putin” and other placards criticizing his government. Organizers said police had detained several dozen activists for alleged violations in Moscow and about 200 other protests had been detained on their way to Moscow. Natalya Morar, spokesman for Other Russia said many had been taken off trains and buses and put into detention cells.

We have asked before, and we will keep asking: What is WRONG with the people of Russia. They are standing idly by while their government strips them of every indicia of personal authority and integrity and returns them to a neo-Soviet state. Not even a cadre of elite can be found which can last for more than an hour of protest or even deign to actually move out of their assigned places. Granted, Echo Moskvy and the Associated Press reported that the authorities had moved to block entry to Moscow by many people from outlying areas who had wanted to attend, and the demonstrators were surrounded by police with water cannons and helicopters (see arrests depicted at above right by OMON, the domestic KGB). But this is only more reason for action by Russians, not less (after all, they stood up to Hitler’s invading forces — is their own government really more terrifying?), and Martin Luther King and Gandhi were also faced with such obstacles, and they drew much larger throngs of support, and Moscow alone is a city of TEN MILLION PEOPLE. If just 0.1% of the city itself supported this protest, five times more people than actually did would have shown up.

The Times of London interviewed Kasparov (who has set up his world headquarters in Palm Beach, Florida, looking to collect big donations from its tony residents) before the march:

As the world’s greatest chess player, Garry Kasparov employed his formidable intellect to outwit rivals before seizing on a weakness to crush them.

The Russian grandmaster is now applying those skills to a new game of strategy aimed at defeating his toughest opponent of all — President Putin. At stake, he argues, is the fate of Russian democracy.


Mr Kasparov has devoted himself to politics since retiring from professional chess last year. He regards Mr Putin as a dictator whose authoritarian rule threatens to return Russia to a dark past.

Mr Kasparov, 43, is the most prominent name in The Other Russia, a coalition of opposition groups formed in an attempt to break Mr Putin’s grip on the Kremlin at the presidential elections in March 2008. The gambit begins today when The Other Russia attempts to demonstrate in Moscow under the banner of the March of Dissenters. The authorities have banned the march and warned the organisers of criminal charges against anyone taking part.

In an interview with The Times Mr Kasparov compared Mr Putin’s Russia to Pinochet’s Chile and the Communist regimes swept away by the velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe.

“We are not fighting to win elections in Russia, we are fighting to have elections,” he said. “The word ‘election’ should be removed from our political vocabulary now. It is an appointment process.”

He will not be a contender for the presidency but The Other Russia aims to create the conditions under which an anti-Putin candidate can win. It appears, however, to be an uneven contest against a man who enjoys 80 per cent approval ratings.

Most Russians want Mr Putin to overturn a constitutional bar on a third term in office. Many will back whomever Mr Putin endorses to succeed him.The President appears supremely confident, surrounded in the Kremlin by the siloviki (the power elite), a hand-picked group of former KGB comrades who dominate Russia’s political elite.

The chess master, however, sees cracks in the Kremlin wall and believes that Mr Putin will give him an opening for a counter-attack. Mr Kasparov argues that, despite the oil riches, the vast majority of Russians are increasingly enduring economic hardship that will burst to the surface politically next year.

“I don’t think we are seeing a super-confident Kremlin. It is not one Kremlin any more, the ruling elite is split into many different voices,” he said.

“If the temperature is rising, we will see the collapse of the Kremlin power structure. Putin has to make his move and name a successor, but this is a man who has never made a painful choice in his life.

“Other groups may be extremely upset and this inability to organise a transition of power will create a crisis. That’s our chance.

“If we can keep The Other Russia united for the next six months there will be more and more losers in the Kremlin battle who are looking for other options. The momentum will be on our side. It gives me some optimism, although not much because it could go either way. There could be repressions and arrests.”

He sees the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London as evidence of the power struggle. Mr Kasparov said: “All the theories about what happened to him have in common that it was initiated by some Kremlin forces. The danger is there and that is what Western leaders fail to recognise, that Putin is not in control even in the Kremlin itself.”

He knows that he is playing a dangerous game. Critics of the Kremlin have fallen victim to a series of unexplained attacks recently, from the murders of Mr Litvinenko and the journalist Anna Politkovskaya to the mysterious poisoning of Yegor Gaidar, the former Prime Minister.

Mr Kasparov travels around Moscow with two security guards constantly at his side and his movements are carefully planned. But he brushes aside concerns for his safety in pursuit of his dream of a more pluralist and democratic Russia.

“I can calculate the possibilities as a chess player and I have to be honest and say that our chances are not high. But I take this as a moral duty, and when you do something out of moral duty, then who cares?” he said.

“I travel all over Russia to meet our supporters and they are constantly being harassed by the authorities. My only way to help them is to stay put.

“So I am here, I am fighting and I try to defend our rights. I don’t feel that I have the right to be scared.”

The Other Russia has drawn criticism for including the National Bolshevik Party, an ultra-nationalist group that flirts with the ideology and symbols of fascism. Mr Kasparov has defended its inclusion, saying that they have all agreed on common principles in support of free speech and democracy.

Mr Putin’s two terms in office have been marked by the growing power of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, throughout Russian government. A study this week of more than 1,000 senior politicians and bureaucrats found that 78 per cent had a background in the security service or the military.

Mr Putin has also insisted on what he calls the “verticality of power”, restoring Kremlin authority by abolishing elections for regional governors and turning them into presidential appointees.

It’s time for Garry and other self-appointed leaders of the opposition to begin calling the people of Russia to task for their outrageous cowardice and sloth in regard to the rise of the neo-Soviet state. Kasparov need not fear the loss of support, because from the weekend march it’s clear he — and in fact democracy itself — has very little to lose. He himself admits he’s “not fighting to win elections” so it’s time for him to begin saying publicly the things that need to be said, before the window for such speech closes entirely. And if he’s not willing to risk his life for the country, then its time to find someone who will. Kasparov has been regrettably quiet as the Politkovskaya and Litvinenko killings have unfolded, though maybe he’s been working behind the scenes in Russia in some manner, and his first comments are tepid at best. This is his moment, the world’s attention is turned to Russia and focussed on Russian outrage. Kasaparov begins to give LR the impression of being “another Yavlinsky,” a fellow who will fade into the shadows when the going gets tough. We sincerely hope this is not the case and desperately wish to be proved wrong. On the other hand, it’s simply impossible to be overly critical of Kasparov when the Russian people have given him so little reason to believe they are worth fighting, much less dying, for.

Indeed, we must ask ourselves: Are they?

The Honest Anthem of the USSR

As part of her continuing effort to shed light on all things neo-Soviet, La Russophobe is pleased to offer below a new translation of the Anthem of the USSR, based on the actual version but translated with a new requirement: honesty. It appears following a reprint of the original English translation. And don’t forget: Russians have embraced the music of this song as their current national anthem, it was played for the Russian team at the Turin olympiad this year. It was originally written to glorify the dictator Josef Stalin, references to him being removed only in the 1970s.


Unbreakable Union of freeborn Republics,
Great Russia has welded forever to stand.
Created in struggle by will of the people,
United and mighty, our Soviet land!


Sing to the Motherland, home of the free,
Bulwark of peoples in brotherhood strong.
O Party of Lenin, the strength of the people,
To Communism’s triumph lead us on!

In storms the sunrays of freedom cheered us,
Along the new path where great Lenin did lead.
To a righteous cause he raised up the peoples,
Inspired them to labour and valorous deed.

In the vict’ry of Communism’s deathless ideal,
We see the future of our dear land.
And to her fluttering scarlet banner,
Selflessly true we always shall stand!


Disposable Union of slave-like colonies
Russia has duct-taped 72 years to stand
Created in corruption by will of fanatics
Nothing but illusion, our Soviet land!


Sing to Der Fatherland, home of the zombies
Bulwark of dictatorship and racism strong
O Party of Lenin, the opiate of the people
To Communism’s apocalypse lead us on!

In storms the sunrays of vodka have cheered us
Along the dead-end road where Lenin did lead
To an insane pipe dream he deluded the peoples
Inspired them to sloth, hatred, violence and greed.

In the defeat of Communism’s crazed paranoia
We see the future of our demented land
And to her fluttering tricolor banner
Selfishly false we always shall stand!

Those Amazing, Endangered Baltics

Edward Lucas points out that

two Baltic countries, Estonia and Latvia, are growing at 11.6% and 10.9%, respectively. This speed is unexpected. Of 13 forecasts looked at last year by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the highest for Estonia was 6.4%; even Estonia’s own central bank reckons that the long-term growth rate is only 7-8%.

Isn’t that amazing? They have higher rates of economic growth than Russia does, yet they have no oil and gas reserves such as Russia benefits from. Can you imagine their growth if they did? Can you imagine Russia’s bleak fate if it didn’t, or when oil prices plummet? Can you imagine what sort of paradise states the Baltics might be today if they hadn’t been bled dry by decades of Russian imperialism? Is it any wonder, when they think about their past, that they worry seriously about neo-Soviet aggression against them? In this light, Edward is quite correct when he points out that Amnesty International’s statements about their failure to extend legal rights to their Russian minorities might constitute come sort of human rights violation is a flight of fancy. Amnesty is clearly being victimized, as Edward writes, by neo-Soviet propaganda, designed not only to justify renewed encroachments by Russia in the Baltics but to take the world’s eye of the consolidation of the neo-Soviet dictatorship in Russia itself, with which Amnesty ought to be far more concerned. Russia is killing people inside Russia who dare to behave as Russians do in Estonia and Lativa. Wake up and smell the vodka, Amnesty!