Russia’s Olympiad is Collapsing before our Eyes

Paul Goble reports that Russia’s failure to develop and protect the site of the 2014 Olympic Games has become so desperate that the Kremlin is considering reorganizing Russia’s basic geopoltical structure in order to preserve any hope of a successful games:

Even before the International Olympic Committee, after intense lobbying by then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, awarded the 2014 Winter Games to Sochi, it was obvious to many that Russia would face serious challenges in getting the venue ready for the Olympics and ensuring that they passed off safely.

Now, all the problems they warned about– violence in neighboring areas, environmental concerns, objections to holding such a competition on the site of a nineteenth century genocide, and both paying for infrastructure and finding workers to build it – have become more obvious, and as a result, some in Moscow are casting about for possible solutions.

Last year, opposition figure Boris Nemtsov suggested that the name Sochi Games be retained but that the competitions take place at existing sports facilities in other Russian cities, but now, the editors of have proposed saving the day by creating new federal subject directly subordinate to Moscow.

“Many of the administrative problems which are having a negative impact on preparations for the Games are the result of the subordination of Sochi to Krasnodar kray,” they argue. Consequently, removing Sochi from that kray and creating a separate Black Sea kray could “allow the securing of a more effective relationship of the center and the region.” Such a new federal subject, the editors say, would not have to coordinate with Krasnodar and could receive subsidies directly from the federal budget and thus get all the money the central government intends them to have, thus bypassing the “power ‘filters’” of the existing kray.

The editors point out that there is a precedent for taking this step even in Sochi itself. Between August 1948 and June 1958, Sochi was “like Moscow, Leningrad [now St. Petersburg], Kyiv and Sevastopol, a city of republic subordination” because it served as a resort that was used largely by senior officials of the central government. “In the Soviet Union,” the editors say, it was well understood that Sochi is a special place which one must not compare with any other region of Russia.” Consequently, “the return to Sochi of such a special status within the framework of the Russian Federation should help the revival of the region and the successful conduct of the 2014 Olympics.”

Not only does the Russian Federation have the recent tradition of amalgamating regions – another one of Putin’s pet projects – but, the editors say, “it is possible to provide a multitude of arguments in favor of the separating out of Sochi” from Krasnodar kray. “The main one is that Sochi and Krasnodar kray have radically different structures both economically and socially.” Krasnodar is based on agriculture, while Sochi is based on tourism and now the Olympics. And after the games are held, the editors say, there will be even more reason to keep Sochi separate so that it will be able to promote itself rather than become yet another “company town.”

Sochi must not be allowed to fall back to the status of “a provincial resort, less attractive than Turkey and Egypt, with empty stadiums,” the editors say. Moreover, they suggest, “the establishment of a Black Sea kray will become for the city a real reward for the Olympics,” making into “a model tourist region” perhaps “on the model of the American Las Vegas.” The editors helpfully attach an 800-word draft law that, if adopted, would lead to the creation of the new kray, a draft they say they will be forwarding “through deputies friendly to us for consideration by the corresponding commissions of the State Duma” after seeking support from the government, the National Olympic Committee and the Social Chamber.

Given how many problems the creation of such a new federal subject in the North Caucasus would cause and how few of the problems it would solve in advance of the planned games, it is unlikely that this proposal will receive widespread support. But it is a measure of just how desperate some in Moscow have become that such an idea is being floated at all.

8 responses to “Russia’s Olympiad is Collapsing before our Eyes

  1. Circassian Genocide Issue Gains More Publicity and Support in the Northwest Caucasus

    Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 65
    April 5, 2010 03:52 PM Age: 8 days

    Valery Dzutsev

    The main reaction of Circassians living in their historical homeland in the North Caucasus to the seminal conference on the Circassian genocide issue held in Tbilisi appeared to be highly positive. Many sounded very enthusiastic about Georgia’s indication of interest in the problem, which is seen by Circassians as a matter of justice. “The Circassian youth of the republic of Adygea received the news [about the call by participants in the Tbilisi conference to recognize the genocide of Circassians by Russia] with great … hope for a positive decision on the part of Georgian lawmakers,” a group of Circassian youth from Adygea said in a passionate statement, adding: “The possible recognition of the genocide of our people will become an important step in the process of settling the Circassian question. Today, the problem of the Circassians is making it to the international level and the Russian government authorities will not be able to disregard this issue anymore” (, March 25).

    The independent Circassian organization in Kabardino-Balkaria, Khase, also adopted a special statement dismissing earlier fears that it would oppose Georgia’s recognition of genocide. In the statement, they said they would support genocide recognition by any country (, March 23).

    The conference “Hidden Nations, Enduring Crimes: The Circassians & the Peoples of the North Caucasus Between Past and Future” took place in Tbilisi, Georgia on March 20-21. The Jamestown Foundation and Ilia State University of Georgia co-sponsored the event. Conference participants prepared two separate statements addressing the Georgian parliament with pleas to recognize the genocide of the Circassians and the Chechens in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (

    The issue of the Circassian genocide in the nineteenth century is an especially sensitive topic for Russia, as the Circassians insist that the Sochi Olympics in 2014 should not be held in what they consider to be “the land of genocide,” where their ancestors were partly slaughtered and partly expelled en masse by the Russian army. Today an estimated 90 percent or 6-7 million of the Circassians live outside their homeland in the North Caucasus, mainly in Turkey and the Middle East. The remaining 700,000 are split between three republics of the North Caucasus –Adygea, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria. Only in Kabardino-Balkaria do the Circassians comprise a majority of the population.

    The overwhelmingly positive response was even more remarkable because the Russian government appeared to have pressured the Circassian activists prior to the conference in Tbilisi, so that most of them living in the North Caucasus could not make it to the conference. Another important factor is that some Circassians feel very strongly about the Georgian-Abkhaz war of 1992-1993, as the Abkhaz and Circassians are ethnic cousins. Russian-Georgian relations have reached a nadir since the August 2008 war between the two countries.

    Referring to the war in Abkhazia, the organization of Circassians in the Krasnodar region of Russia, where Sochi is located, condemned the Georgian side’s attempts to consider the Circassian issue, saying that because of previous wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Georgian government “had no moral right to touch the issue of the Circassian genocide” (, March 25). Today, only about 0.5 percent of the population the Krasnodar region of Russia, which was Circassian land before the Russian conquest of this territory in the nineteenth century, is Circassian.

    According to the well-known Russian liberal journalist and writer Aleksandr Podrabinek, there is a large collection of historical evidence about the Russian conquest of the northwestern Caucasus that leaves little doubt about the colonial and brutal character of the war Russia waged then. Podrabinek acknowledges that the issue has a political context, but he argues that Russians must come to terms with their past, admit to the killings of civilians and express their condolences. He said: “We are proficient in being proud of our ancestors’ merits, why cannot we learn to regret their trespasses? We cannot and we should not be so puerile as to consider our past as exclusively heroic, valiant and faultless” (, March 26).

    Sergei Markedonov, one of the leading Russian commentators on the North Caucasus, argued that the Russian empire did not have the intention of eliminating the Circassian people, even though he admitted that over 90 percent of the Circassian population “left” their homeland. Markedonov warned that Tbilisi would use the Circassian genocide issue as “an additional political weapon” against Russia. He called on the Russian government not to concede this issue to others, but rather reach an agreement with moderate Circassian activist groups before the Sochi Olympics (, March 22).

    Journalist and editor Oliver Bullough, who wrote a book on the eradication of Circassians by Russia, called it “the first genocide in modern European history.” Bullough visited the future site of the Sochi Olympics and noted: “I was impressed by the beauty of Krasnaya Polyana, which will host the skiing events, and the gorge along which visitors will travel to reach it. It will be a magnificent venue. But, I was equally stunned by the complete erasure of the Circassians from this place, which was their heartland until their defeat and expulsion by Tsar Alexander II’s army. I found only a single pear tree, which was too old to have been planted by the aristocrats who colonized this remote gorge in the late nineteenth century, as proof that anyone lived here before the Russians” (, March 18).

    On March 24, the parliament of Adygea, the North Caucasus republic closest to the Sochi Olympics sites, tried to capitalize on the Circassians’ protests, appealing to the Russian government to include a Circassian cultural element in the Olympics’ program (, March 25). The Circassian activists were appalled by the presentation that the Russian hosts of the 2014 Olympics made at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. They portrayed Sochi as a native land of the Russian Cossacks with no mention of the Circassians, who were the owners of those lands 150 years ago.

    Circassian activists and even local authorities repeatedly called on Moscow to give recognition to their sorrowful past, but all in vain, so the activists turned to foreign countries and international organizations. The Sochi Olympics will provide the Circassians with a unique chance to make their voice heard worldwide, while providing Georgia with a rare opportunity to improve its relations with the neighboring Caucasian peoples by attending to their quest for justice.

  2. Redrawing administrative boundaries can hardly solve anything. Let’s go to our usual advisor on such matters: fable writer Krylov:

    A Rascal-Monkey
    Billy Goat
    And klunky Bear
    Set out to play a string Quartet.
    They found some scores, viola, bass, two violins
    And sat down in a lea beneath a linden tree
    To charm the world with art.
    They struck their strings, and sawed with all their heart.
    No luck. “Arrete, my fellows, stop!” shouts Monkey,
    How can the music play when you’re not sitting straight?
    You, Bearie, opposite viola, move your bass,
    As primo, I’ll sit opposite secundo’s face
    And then some music will take place.
    We’ll make the hills and forests dance!”
    They took their seats and started the Quartet,
    And once again it came to nyet.
    “Hold on! I know the secret!”
    Shouts Donkey, “It is bound to come out fine
    If everyone sits in a line.”
    They followed Donkey’s plan and settled in a row;
    But even so, the music would not go.
    More fiercely than before they argued then about
    Who should be sitting where.
    A nightingale, in passing, chanced the noise to hear.
    At once, they turned to her to solve their problem.
    They pleaded, “Please, spare us some time
    To make of our quartet a paradigm:
    We have our instruments and scores,
    Just tell us how to sit!”
    “For making music, you must have the knack
    And ears more musical than yours,”
    The nightingale tells them,
    “And you, my friends, no matter where you sit,
    Will never be musicians!”

  3. Americans are the biggest experts in the field of humanty, democracy and freedom among other Christian nations … bluh bluh bluh bluh bluh
    This is an undeniable fact with most Americans and just equally undeniable fact the US is a nation based on torture and genocide living on the stolen land for the rest of the world. Even the the nazi tactic of concentrating ‘undesireables’ prior to their forced ‘relocation or reduction’ was drawn from actual U.S. examples, including internment of the Cherokees and other ‘Civilized Tribes’ during the 1830’s before the devastatingly lethal Trail of Tears was forced upon them, and the comparable experience of the Navajo people at the Bosque Redondo during the period 1864-68.
    But let me tell you a California story. I’do the the best I can to as short as possible here. Yeh, I could tell you the sad story of Wounded Knee +149 similar stories . By the way Wounded Knee has been called “perhaps the best-known genocide of North American Indians.” It took place on December 29, 1890 on the
    Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
    The sorry tale continues in California.

    @ “________”

    The area that in 1850 became admitted
    to the Union as the 31st state under the name of California had once held an Indian population estimated at anywhere between 150,000 and 250,000. By the end of the 19th century, the number had dropped to 15,000. As elsewhere, disease was the single most important factor, although the state also witnessed an unusually large number of deliberate killings.

    The discovery of gold in 1848 brought about a fundamental change in Indian-white relations. Whereas formerly Mexican ranchers had both exploited the Indians and provided them with a minimum of protection, the new immigrants, mostly young single males, exhibited animosity from the start, trespassing on Indian lands and often freely killing any who were in their way. An American officer wrote to his sister in 1860: “There never was a viler sort of men in the world than is congregated about these mines.”

    What was true of miners was often true as well of newly arrived farmers. By the early 1850’s, whites in California outnumbered Indians by about two to one, and the lot of the natives, gradually forced into the least fertile parts of
    the territory, began to deteriorate rapidly. Many succumbed to starvation;
    others, desperate for food, went on the attack, stealing and killing livestock. Indian women who prostituted themselves to feed their families contributed to the demographic decline by removing themselves from the reproductive cycle. As a solution to the growing problem, the federal government sought to confine the Indians to reservations, but this was opposed both by the Indians themselves and by white ranchers fearing the loss of labor. Meanwhile, clashes multiplied.

    One of the most violent, between white settlers and Yuki Indians in the Round Valley of Mendocino County, lasted for several years and was waged with great ferocity. Although Governor John B. Weller cautioned against an
    indiscriminate campaign “Your operations against the Indians,” he wrote to the commander
    of a volunteer force in 1859, “must be confined strictly to those who are known to have been engaged in killing the stock and destroying the property of our citizens . . . and the women and children under all circumstances must be
    spared” his words had little effect. By 1864 the number of Yukis had declined from about 5,000 to 300.

    The Humboldt Bay region, just northwest of the Round Valley, was the scene of still more collisions. Here too Indians stole and killed cattle, and militia companies retaliated. A secret league, formed in the town of Eureka, perpetrated a particularly hideous massacre in February 1860, surprising Indians sleeping in their houses and killing about sixty, mostly by hatchet. During the same morning hours, whites attacked two other Indian rancherias, with the
    samedeadly results. In all, nearly 300 Indians were killed on one day, at least half of them women and children.

    Once again there was outrage and remorse. “The white settlers,” wrote a historian only 20 years later, “had received great provocation. . . . But nothing they had suffered, no depredations the savages had committed, could justify the
    cruel slaughter of innocent women and children. This had also been the opinion of a majority of the people of Eureka, where a grand jury condemned the massacre, while in cities like San Francisco all such killings repeatedly drew
    strong criticism. But atrocities continued: by the 1870’s, as one historian has summarized the situation in California, “only remnants of the aboriginal populations were still alive, and those who had survived the maelstrom of the preceding quarter-century were dislocated, demoralized, and impoverished.”

    That all took place at the time of Russian wars in the North Caucasus .

  4. rts: so, by your reasoning, the vile action of a scummy mob of gold prospectors with the morals of bandits (California 1849) are comparable to, and indeed justify, the activity of the uniformed servants of the Autocrat Caesar of all the Russias (Circassia 1800s). I am glad that you gave such a realistic account of the moral value of the Russian state.

  5. Russia scientist fears arrest over Olympic warnings

    By Richard Galpin
    BBC News, Moscow

    A senior scientist has told the BBC he has fled Russia to avoid arrest after warning of a possible disaster in the run-up to – or even during – the next Winter Olympics.
    The games are due to be held in the southern Russian city of Sochi in 2014.
    Dr Sergei Volkov, a former consultant to the Sochi Winter Olympics, is in hiding in southern Ukraine because he fears being detained by Russian authorities on trumped-up criminal charges.
    He says he refused to keep quiet after discovering that the massive construction programme was forging ahead without essential research into the region’s complex geology and ecology.
    “It’s a potentially dangerous area,” said Dr Volkov, a geologist by profession.

    He gave the interview in a small room where he now lives with just a laptop, an internet connection and a few books and files.
    “There have been big landslides in the past and there are large deposits of mercury, uranium and other potentially dangerous minerals. But all scientific advice is being ignored,” he said.
    He believes the government took the political decision to hold the games before they had thought through how much preliminary work was needed in the area.
    Shortly after arriving in Ukraine, Dr Volkov wrote an open letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warning him of the dangers.
    He sent his letter after a storm destroyed a new cargo port being built in Sochi for the Olympics.
    “Not a particularly strong storm destroyed this important infrastructure project,” he wrote.
    “At least $14m [of work] was washed away by the sea, to say nothing of the lives of [three] seamen.
    “And this serious catastrophe with the loss of human life is just the start of similar accidents which will follow,” he warned.
    Warnings ‘ignored’
    What happened at the port is evidence, Dr Volkov believes, of his worst fears coming true.
    He says building work began last year without basic research into local geology and weather patterns.
    He had warned that it was not a suitable place for a port, but says he was ignored.
    Now one of his biggest concerns is an $8bn (£5bn) project for a new road and rail link between Olympic venues being built on the Black Sea coast near Sochi and venues in the mountains.
    It is supposed to be a centre-piece of the infrastructure development in the area.
    Pile-drivers, cranes, bulldozers and cement-mixers are transforming a long, beautiful valley containing the Mzymta River into a frenetic industrial landscape.
    It is one of the main reasons the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned in February that “preparation for the Olympics is out of control, construction is of poor quality and vast damage to the environment has already been done”.
    But Dr Volkov’s main worry is not for the environment.
    He fears the builders are cutting a swathe through the valley up towards the mountains without taking into account how unstable the area is geologically.
    He refers to a massive landslide in the late 1960s and warns there could be a repeat.
    “The road is being built and tunnels dug in this same district,” he says.
    “This is seriously affecting the mountains.”
    Active landslide
    Driving along the old road between the coast and the high peaks, we found an active landslide being cleared by excavators to protect traffic passing beneath.
    Higher up next to the ski slopes Sergei Avdeev, mayor of Krasnaya Polyana – the village nearest the Olympic sites – told us he shared Dr Volkov’s worries.
    He said he had considered resigning over the issue.
    “When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded the games to Russia, they knew full well that Russia did not have enough time to do proper research and build all the facilities in line with international environmental and construction standards,” he says.
    “I pray to God that there will not be any consequences. The only thing we can do is pray and hope.”
    In answers e-mailed to the BBC, the IOC dismissed these concerns.
    “Construction of the facilities, related infrastructure, and safety issues are the responsibility of the Russian organisers and the government,” it said.
    “We are confident in the research they did prior to the start of construction and the work they are undertaking now.”
    Allegations that corners are being cut in the rush to meet deadlines are also strongly denied by the main state-owned Olympic construction company, Olimpstroi.
    “It’s not a secret that Sochi has a very tough geological landscape,” says Alexandra Kosterina, the main spokesperson.
    “But all necessary research has been done… and we are building everything in line with international standards and with recommendations from the IOC.”
    The Sochi 2014 project is Russia’s first experience of hosting the Winter Olympics.
    The prestige of the country is at stake and it cannot afford to make any mistakes.

  6. Pat Patterson

    RTR has lifted practically a whole article out of HNN without attribution to someone else’s work. But he conveniently stops short of the penultimate part of the article which argues that there was no genocide of the Indians in either the example cited, California, or in that are that was a British colony and then an independent nation. And that the US behaved now worse and often better according to the accepted rules of warfare of the 18th and 19th centuries.

    He also doesn’t mention that the author also discusses that the bulk of the die off of the Indian population had already occurred when Mexico gained its independence and closed the missions thus throwing thousands of Christians unceremoniously off the Church property. Where they promptly succumbed to starvation and disease.

  7. Pat Patterson

    Sorry for the typo it should have read “rts.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s