Sunday, April 22, 2018

Russia Not Moscow and Provinces But ‘a Continent of Many Future Countries’


Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 22 – Many Russians and all to many Westerns view the Russian Federation as divided between Moscow and an undifferentiated set of provinces, but in fact, the After Empire portal points out, Russia is “a whole continent consisting of a multitude of future countries,” some well-known but many extremely obscure.

            That many in Moscow view the provinces this way has made it possible for the Russian government to behave toward those who seek to defend the rights of their people in completely unacceptable and repressive ways to the point of forcing many of those who speak for these “unknown” peoples to flee Russia for their lives

            One nation that is part of this “imperial terra incognita” and whose activist defenders have been forced into exile is the Shor people, a nation of 13,000 nominally one of the numerically small peoples  who are supposed to get assistance from the center but who seldom get any help and often are mistreated (afterempire.info/2018/04/21/shoria/).

            Yana and Vladislav Tannagasheva, who have been fighting for the Shors for more than five years, have finally been forced to emigrate to a European country where they hope to be able to continue the struggle through international organizations like the European Court ad United Nations (sibreal.org/a/правозащитникам-здесь-не-место/29182610.html).

                Yana Tannagasheva, a member of the Rebirth of Kazas and the Shor People, says that officials have worked to destroy the Shors rather than help them, have lied about the situation, and have failed to keep their promises to meet with representatives of this small Turkic people. She has become ever more vocal internationally, and the Russian authorities have struck back.

            Even though she was declared “teacher of the year” at the school she works for, she was forced to resign; and she was told by unidentified thugs on the street that if she didn’t stop pushing for the restoration of the rights of the Shors, she would soon be a widow, a not so implicit threat that they were prepared to kill her husband who also has been speaking out.

            Earlier this month, the Tannagashev couple and their children left Russia and are now in a European country, “the name of which they ask not to be revealed” at least for the time being.  “We arrived here on April 14, handed in our documents to the migration service and are waiting for an interview,” she said.

            Yana Tannagasheva added that “we are not the first rights activists from among the indigenous peoples of Russia who have been forced to ask for political asylum abroad. Last year, Pavel Sulyandziga, a leader of the numerically small peoples of the North, asked for asylum in the United States.

                Expelling such people may buy Moscow time, but such repression won’t end the aspirations of these nations. Instead, the arrival of ever more of their activists in the West will make a major contribution to ensuring that the West will no longer view the Russian Federation as Moscow plus provinces but rather as the evil empire that it has not ceased to be.

A SMERSH General Who Didn’t Like Putin


Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 22 – Radio Liberty’s Dmitry Volchek has posted on the station’s website a remarkable human and political document: a selection of the as-yet unpublished memoirs of Andrey Frolov who worked in the Soviet intelligence agencies and retired as a SMERSH general and an interview with Frolov’s son who lives in New Zealand.

            Andrey Frolov (1908-2004) had a remarkable career, having in his youth seen the last tsar and be congratulated on his 95th birthday by Vladimir Putin. He rose through the ranks of the Soviet secret police, was involved in Stalin-era repressions, and became a SMERSH major general. He was forced out with the fall of Beria in 1953 but wasn’t himself suppressed.

            His younger son, born in 1954, has his father’s unpublished memoir which provides numerous details on the organs in Stalin’s times as well as the evolving view of the general about the Soviet and post-Soviet leadership (svoboda.org/a/29182637.html). Among the most relevant to the current Russian situation are the following:

                General Frolov offered the following judgment about Putin and by extension to Russia more generally: “I can’t bear Putin,” he wrote, “a pipsqueak and the brother of a kind of man I know well," someone who knows only how to repress others and enrich himself.

            “I came to undertand from the time of the civil war how stupid our people is; but I thought that education wouldhelp. It hasn’t: when I look at Putin, Medvedev and Fradkov with their idiotic facilia expressions and their participation in church services, I see that education did not help them. The only thing that has happened was a loss of time.”

            “My illiterate grandfather was smarter,” the general said. “Where then is progress? Somewhere, only not with us.”

            His son offered some comments of his own about his father’s evolving thinking toward the end of his life.  The end of the USSR “was for him a big drama. But he and my mother decided that everything was OK, and they burned their party cards because father considered that the leaders had not acted in time.”

            “At the same time,” the son continued, his father “thought that the idea of communism was good, although he then gradually came to the conclusion that the idea, unfortunately was mistaken, that the February revolution which he had seen was much better.” And he dismissed as lies all suggestions that people like himself starved under the tsar.

            The general “sympathized even during the times of repression with his opponents because he respected them for their opinions,” his son said. He said some Ukrainian nationalists against whom he fought were nonetheless good people. And he liked Putin critics like Khodorkovsky, Piontkovsky and Novodvorskaya, even when he didn’t agree with them.

            “On the other hand,” his son said, his father “loved Stalin,” even though he never met him personally. He did know Vasily Stalin, however.  But as he lost confidence in communism and came to believe in democracy, he became ever more hostile to all dictators and expressed pleasure when news came that Saddam Husseyn had been caught and would be executed.

A Dangerous ‘Homo Putinus’ Now Replacing ‘Homo Post-Sovieticus,’ Gubin Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 22 – The changes in regimes Russians have experienced over the last 40 years have transformed the basic social type from homo sovieticus to homo post-Sovieticus and nowt to homo Putinus, an evolution that is “extremely interesting to observe but not always something to be happy about,” Dmitry Gubin says.

            In a Rosbalt commentary, the Russian journalist, writer, and television host says that these three types represent different “social types, although they are closely related” with some elements of the earlier ones playing a role in defining the features of their successors (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2018/04/21/1698001.html).

            Viewed from this distance, Gubin says, homo sovieticus looks “even sympathetic.” Yes, he knew when to shout hurrah, drank too much and “knew that the USSR was better than America because in America, they lynch Negroes.”  But he didn’t really believe in Marxism-Leninism or want to see the country go to war.

            Homo post-Sovieticus,” he continues, set aside his “idealism and hypocrisy as soon as he acquired money.” This new man, which had its apogee in the period between 1996 and 2012, the commentator says, “the era of triumphant glamour wanted not so much things as status,” something he believed he could acquire by buying foreign goods.

            “Having gotten rich, post-Sovieticus didn’t set up a society of equals. On the contrary, he cut himself off from his neighbors,” erecting walls reaching “to the moon.” And he “began to relate to the world as to a store, having [almost entirely] forgotten that the world is a school class.”

                According to Gubin, “the ideological emptiness of post-Sovieticus was filled by everyday racism: Europe in his eyes was a place for shopping and rest but where unhappily Negroes and Arabs walked about on the streets when in his opinion they should have been kept” out of sight so as not to disturb people like himself.

            There have been many articles and even books about homo sovieticus and homo post-sovieticus, the commentator says; but so far, because homo putinus is so new, “nothing has been written.” Indeed, the type emerged in its full horror only “after Crimea when “glamour was replaced by patriotism.”

            This new man is significantly different than his predecessors. “For example, in his passionate rejection of the personal and individual in favor of the general and collective. And this isn’t the Soviet ‘think first about the Motherland and then about yourself.’” Instead, it has defined its motherland in a new and disturbing way.

            “If homo post-sovieticus defined himself by his profession or income … homo putinus has begun to define himself by the expression ‘I am a Russian,’ without noticing that the individuality in this is defined by the denial of the individual,” Gubin says. 

            Another characteristic of this human type, he continues, is its hypocrisy and a syncretic and mechanical combination of the mutually exclusive. Homo putinus sees nothing problematic in a scene “where a monument to Lenin faces a new Orthodox church and Nicholas II and Stalin stand alongside one another as two heroes.”

            Similarly, “homo putinus at one and the same time curses ‘Gayeurope,’ drives a German car, and signs that there will never be roads in Russia like those in Europe although of course we are the greatest country in the world.” He knows that the Orthodox Church “was born in the CPSU but calls a priest to bless his office. He hasn’t read ten pages of the New Testament but is nonetheless certain that a Russian must be Orthodox.”

            “It is possible,” Gubin suggests, “that this syncretism is connected with a third aspect of homo putinus,” an apparent desire to remain ignorant of the way of the world. Of course, homo sovieticus didn’t know many things, but he was “ashamed of his ignorance and respected knowledge.” Homo putinus is proud of his ignorance and has no respect for learning. 

            Indeed, the latest new man has no respect for culture and views “complicated, intellectual things as something funny.” He doesn’t listen to classical music, he doesn’t read serious books, he doesn’t support paying intellectual workers a living wage, and he can’t get a serious newspaper because there aren’t any.

            What homo putinus does to, again “as a result of syncretism,” is to invest his money in the education of his children abroad if possible or at the very most prestigious places in Moscow if necessary. “Children [for him] have become not so much the meaning of life as a defense against it.”

            In this way, homo putinus is “sharply limiting his life prospects to just two: either learn a foreign language and emigrate or remain living in a country with a stagnating economy and the possibility of landing in prison for an incautious post on a social network.” Not surprisingly, such people are angry at just about everything – “yet another typical aspect” of the type.

            For homo putinus, Gubin says, “anger is justified by his view that he lives in a besieged fortress,” although he become furious if someone suggests Russia is becoming like North Korea, although he is acceptant of the idea that a nuclear war is “almost inevitable: if you don’t want to take us into consideration, then you can die together with us.”

            And that too is a basic characteristic of homo putinus, something that makes him far more dangerous than either of his predecessors.