Category Archives: disintegration

Russia’s Siberia becomes a Desert

The Dallas-Forth Worth Tribune reports:

Picture a town inaccessible by road, buried under ice and snow for eight months of the year, unable to support a movie theater and without enough cars to warrant a traffic light or even a stop sign.

Chersky is the definition of isolation — or, in Stalinist terms, exile. This forbidding area of northeastern Siberia, where winter temperatures commonly sink to about -50 Celsius, (about -60 F) was once part of the Gulag, the network of prisons for the Kremlin’s enemies.

The town has shed more than half its population of 12,000 in the hard times that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Many of those remaining say they also would leave if they could.

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Russians don’t Emigrate because they Fear being Required to Obey the Law

Paul Goble reports that, in contrast to the poll data we discuss in our led editorial, the Kremlin’s own polls show nobody wants to leave Russia.  But Goble thinks he knows one reason why at least some Russians want to stay:  They know they’d be required to obey the law if they lived in a civilized country.

In addition to all the normal constraints – inertia, language knowledge, and uncertainty about other places – Russians today choose not to leave their country for work abroad because they consider it “abnormal to live according to the letter and spirit of the law” as Western countries require, according to VTsIOM director Valery Fedorov.

Speaking to a Novosibirsk forum “Strategy 2020″, Fedorov, the general director of the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, said that Russians at the present time “rarely consider emigration abroad as a key to the resolution of their personal problems.”

According to his organization’s data, the VTsIOM pollster said, far fewer Russians are interested in moving abroad than “20, 15 or even 10 years ago.” Even those who are having problems “where they were born and grew up,” he continued, have many reasons for deciding against such a step.

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EDITORIAL: Russia, buy one Get one Free!


Russia, buy one Get one Free!

Russia is on sale. Act now, shoppers, these deals won’t last!

For the first time since the economic collapse of the 1990s, Russia is placing massive chunks of state assets — even assets which just months ago the Kremlin was proclaiming “strategic,” on the auction block at bargain-basement prices.

Why? The answer is simple:  The Kremlin is running a massive budget deficit, speedily approaching $100 billion, and it has no other ready source of cash.

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Russia is not a Country

Paul Goble reports:

What people call the state in Russia is not “a system of public institutions” as the state is in Western countrie but rather “a mechanism for the enrichment of the powers that be who control the excessively privatized substance called only by mistake is called the Russian Federation,” according to a leading Moscow political scientist.

In an interview posted on, Tatyana Vorozheykina, who teaches at the Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences, argues that the Russian state at the present time is “in fact a private corporation for the servicing of the private interests of a narrow group of people.” And what is more, Vorozheykina says, “everyone knows these people. They come from one city, from one agency, from one dacha cooperative” – an obvious reference to the St. Petersburg mafia of Vladimir Putin. “And the essential quality of this arrangement of power is one involving the translation of orders, ideas and opinions from the top to the bottom.”

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Putvedev and its Core Instability

Brian Whitmore, writing on the Power Vertical and translating from Novaya Gazeta:

The turbulence currently rattling Russia’s body politic resembles that which existed in the early perestroika period. There is a consensus that there is a need for change, the elite has split into two opposing camps unable to agree over what needs to be done, and neither side can garner a critical mass of support for their agenda.

That is the central argument of political analyst Kirill Rogov in an interesting piece in “Novaya gazeta.” Rogov argues that the agendas of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “are fully formed and divergent” but neither of them is making a compelling case.

Here’s the money quote:

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EDITORIAL: Secession in Kaliningrad and Vladivostok?


Secession in Kaliningrad and Vladivostok?

The indispensable Paul Goble reports that the residents of Kaliningrad, Russia are thinking thoughts of secession these days.

Kaliningrad presents a really fascinating paradox.  Compared to most regions of Russia, the residents of Kalingrad are rich. But compared to their neighbors Poland and Lithuania (the Kaliningrad region is not contiguous to Russia), they are dirt poor, as are the vast majority of all Russians.  And Kaliningraders don’t compare themselves to their remote and slovenly Russian brothers, but to their neighbors, so they’re hopping mad that the Kremlin has bungled their governance so badly and they are taking to the streets to make their displeasure very plain indeed.

According to Vladimir Pribylovsky, president of the Panorama Information and Research Center:  “It is perfectly obvious why: the governor is bad and the Kremlin runs our affairs badly as well.  The Kaliningraders want to live just like the Poles do.”

And, because of their proximity to the West and their isolation from Russia, it turns out that Kaliningraders are willing to stand up to the Putin regime in brazen acts of defiance that have rocked the Kremlin to its core.

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Goodbye, Karelia! Warm wishes!

Paul Goble reports:

The FSB has opened a criminal case against Karelians who have distributed leaflets calling for their land to be re-attached to Finland, a campaign Russian security services say reflects shortcomings in anti-extremist efforts but one others in that northern region argue is the result of the failure of officials to keep the heat on in local buildings. At the end of last week, German Shtadler, the head of the Karelian procuracy, announced that the FSB had brought the case after some unknown group distributed leaflets in the Sortavalsk district calling on people there to push for a referendum on transferring their district from Russia to Finland.

No one has yet been arrested – although the local media suggested that the Finnish organization Pro Karelia which seeks the return of territory seized by Stalin after the Winter War — but once someone is, Shtadler said, he or she will be charged under Article 280 of the Russian criminal code which sets punishments for those who call for carrying out extremist actions. According to the prosecutor, Karelia “in recent times” has become a favorable breeding ground for “extremist manifestations,” with some of them rooted in ethnic clashes with Gastarbeiters from the North Caucasus as in Kondopoga and Kuitezha and others the reflection of the efforts to union leaders to press for higher wages and better working conditions.

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