Sunday, August 31, 2014

Window on Eurasia: After Crimea, Russian Germans Press for Restoration of Their Republic

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 31 – Seventy three years after their republic was disbanded by Stalin and 24 years after the two Germanies were reunited, some of Russia’s remaining Germans have been inspired by the creation of a Crimean Republic within the Russian Federation to increase their efforts to restore a German Republic within Russia.


            Given the radical decline in the number of Germans in the Middle Volga – there were more than 400,000 a century ago but only 1400 remains – some in the city of Engels, which once was the capital of the German autonomy, are skeptical that anything can be done (


            Dmitry Reshetov, the director of the Engels Regional Studies Museum, says there are today no places of “the compact settlement of Germans” and consequently little basis for a new republic.  And Erna Lavrenova, a local resident, says she is certain that “no republic is needed here: the old Germans almost don’t remain and new ones aren’t coming.”


            But others are equally convinced that the restoration of the autonomy is necessary as part of a broader and still incomplete effort to rehabilitate the Russian Germans, 1.2 million of whom were deported to Siberia and Kazakstan and 800,000 of whom were confined to the GULAG by Stalin (


            Many Russians still believe that the Russian Germans deserved to be deported because of their supposed sympathy for and cooperation with the Nazi invaders. But archivist Elizveta Elina says that despite official demands that she and others find evidence for that idea, no such evidence has turned up, and she appears to be certain it won’t.


            Supporters of the idea of restoring a German republic in Russia point out that 20 years ago, it appeared that the idea was of interest “only for specialists,” but then it turned out that not only ethnic Germans but representatives of the other nationalities among whom they lived came to believe that it would be a good idea. 


            “The number of such enthusiasts is becoming ever greater,” according to Aleksandr Bekker, the leader of the Engels German Rebirth Society.


            Representatives of other nationalities are backing the idea, Elena Kashtanova, the head of the information office of the Engels District administration, “above all” because “it is our history” and because there is no reason “to divide peoples” any more.


            She noted that her husband had grown up in a village called “USA” which stood for “the United States of Aleksandrovka.” It had a population of 1000 and included Russians, Mordvins, Kazakhs, Ukrainians and Chuvashes as well as Germans. Representative of 35 different nationalities still live there, she added.


            Nonetheless, some officials believe that after a few more censuses, there won’t be “even one German” in the region and consequently see no reason to press for a German autonomy. But one activist says that she and her colleagues “won’t allow” the Germans to disappear and will thus continue to press for institutions to keep that community alive.




Window on Eurasia: Belarus has a Name and It Isn’t Belorussia, Russian Court Told

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 31 – A man from the Belarusian city of Bobruisk has filed suit in a Moscow court against three Russian news agencies seeking compensation for their use of the word ‘Belorussiya’ instead of ‘Belarus’ as the name of his country, something he says has damaged his honor and dignity.


            “I am a citizen of a state with an official name – the Republic of Belarus,” he told the court, and calling that country Belorussia is offensive to him personally and to all Belarusians. He is asking for the court to order the news agencies to change their practice and to award him 14 million rubles (380,000 US dollars) in damages (


                In reporting this story, Russia’s Regnum news agency says that the notion that Moscow insists on the use of Belorussia is an idea being pushed by “a small group of activists inside the post-Soviet republic who consider themselves not Belorusians but ‘Belarusians’ and even ‘Litvins.’” That group opposes the use of Russian there even though most residents speak it.


            But the news agency also notes that while it “usually uses the traditional Russian name ‘Belorussia,’ it not only allows its authors to use the term Belarus but even has a project which bears that name.  But at the same time, the agency says, it opposes “attempts to arbitrarily change the rules of the Russian language.”


            And Regnum says that Minsk has been taking actions against Russian speakers in Belarussia, thus making many Russians more inclined to use the Russian and not the Belarusian term. It notes that in September 2013, a man was convicted for responding to a Belarusian in Russian and on June 12th of this year, the Minsk Rus’ Cultural Society was shut down.


            The Russian agency did not say, but lying behind this case – which the Moscow court will likely toss out – is a much bigger issue: the view of Vladimir Putin and many Russians that there is a “triune” Slavic people consisting of Great Russians, Little Russians and White Russians.


            By challenging this notion in a Russian court, a Belarusian activist has seized the opportunity to focus attention not just on these words but on the imperialist agenda lying behind them.

Window on Eurasia: ‘Russia Stands at the Brink of Catastrophe,’ Russian Anti-War Movement Warns

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 31 – The organizing committee of the Russian Anti-War Movement says that “Russian stands at the brink of catastrophe” following Putin’s introduction of regular Russian army units into Ukraine, an action that threatens losses equivalent to the war in Afghanistan, a major military conflict in Europe, and a fratricidal war.


            Arguing that Vladimir Putin has violated the Russian Constitution and committed state crimes, the group calls on Russians to engage in acts of peaceful civil disobedience to force the regime to change course, to demand that Russians not be sent to Ukraine to fight, and to engage in political struggle until the war ends and those responsible for it are removed from power (


            It reminds Russian soldiers and officers that they have “the complete right to refuse to obey” illegal orders, that they should not shoot at their fellow Slavs,and that they should reflect on who is “your true enemy: those who have converted you into cannon fodder.” 


            “To the extent that the continuation of the fratricidal war will inevitably lead to the disintegration of the country, the loss of state sovereignty and territorial integrity, the group further calls on Russian military personnel to “find the strength to fulfill their duty for the defense of the peoples of Russia!”


            And to the Ukrainians, whom it calls “dear brothers and sisters,” the organizing group says that “together with you we grieve about those losses which you have born and continue to bear as a result of the criminal policy of the leadership of Russia! We hope for the speediest end to the bloodletting on the much-suffering Ukrainian land!”


Window on Eurasia: Nazarbayev Says Kazakhstan Could Leave Putin’s Eurasian Union

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 31 – Alarmed by Vladimir Putin’s dismissive comments about his country and by Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s suggestion that Moscow will annex part of Kazakhstan after it finishes with Ukraine, President Nursultan Nazarbayev says that Kazakhstan could leave the Moscow-organized Eurasian Union.


            The Kazakhstan president said that “if the rules which were earlier established in the treaty are not fulfilled, then Kazakhstan has the complete right to end its membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. Astana will never be in an organization which represents a threat to the independence of Kazakhstan” (


            “Our independence is our most valued treasure,” the longtime Kazakhstan said, something “for which our grandfathers struggled. First of all, we will never give up our independence, and second, we will do everything possible to defend it,” an almost direct response to Putin and to Zhirinovsky.


            Nazarbayev’s remarks are especially significant because for more than two decades he has been pushing for a tighter but rule-based organization of the post-Soviet states, arguing on many occasions including in a book he wrote that everyone will benefit if everyone lives according to the same rules.


            By threatening to leave Putin’s version of the Eurasian Union, the Kazakhstan president has sent the clearest signal yet that he does not believe the Kremlin leader plans to play by any rules regardless of what he says, and it reinforces the decisions of Minsk and Astana not to go along with the Kremlin leader on Ukraine.


            Consequently, whatever gains Putin thinks he can make by his aggression in Ukraine are being undercut by Russian losses elsewhere. That might restrain some leaders, but it could have the effect of causing Putin to redouble his bets on the use of force, a step that if he takes it could plunge the entire region into disaster.

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Views Donetsk and Luhansk as Surety Against Ukraine Joining NATO, Lukin Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 31 – Vladimir Lukin, former Russian ambassador to the United States and human rights ombudsman, says that Vladimir Putin will use the amount of force necessary in eastern Ukraine to convince Kyiv that it cannot win and use the ensuing federalization of Ukraine as a means of blocking that country’s joining NATO.


            Lukin told Marat Gelman, a Russian commentator, that Moscow will then insist on the federalizationso that in any referendum on joining the Western alliance, each region would have the chance to vote separately, that Donetsk and Luhansk would vote against, and that they could thus end Ukraine’s existence in its current borders if Kyiv went ahead (


            “No one in the Kremlin needs Donets, Luhansk or Novorossiya” for itself, Lukin says. “To get the Donbas and lose Ukraine would be a defeat for the Kremlin.”  Indeed, in that event, “it would have been better not to have begun” all this. And consequently, Moscow will introduce just enough force to force Kyiv to negotiate on Russia’s terms.


            Asked how anyone in Moscow could think that Russia has not lost Ukraine given the current level of hatred, Lukin responded by asking a series of rhetorical questions: “And how did the French come to terms with the English after the 100 Years War? And how did the Russians with the Germans?”


            People in Moscow, he insists, are “thinking in large blocks of time.” What seems impossible now may seem natural in 50 years. Moreover, he continues, no one in Moscow is worried about the constitution.  “What constitution? No one intends to look at a piece of paper when history is being made.”


            Asked why Moscow has dispatched its own forces into Ukraine, Lukin says that people need to “forget about” Donetsk and Luhansk.  “The task is to explain to Poroshenko that he cannot win. Never.” And Russia will introduce forces sufficient to force him or his successors whom Moscow may be able to install to recognize that reality.


            Moscow will leave Donetsk and Luhansk inside Ukraine as sureties against Ukraine’s joining NATO. Under the federalization Moscow will insist on, each region will be able to vote on any decision to join a bloc, and thus Kyiv will face the Hobson’s choice of joining NATO with a smaller country or remaining outside of it with its current borders intact.


            Lukin says that he doesn’t see EU membership for Ukraine as a problem as long as it takes place in a “synchronous” fashion with Russia’s relationship with Europe.  “Putin,” he insists, “is the first European here.” The Kremlin leader doesn’t want to integrate with any other group besides Europe.


            With regard to the United States, Lukin continues, Putin is “ignoring Obama,” but he doesn’t want to push things so far that the Republicans will win in the coming elections. “He needs Hillary [Clinton]. But in Europe we will not get into an argument with anyone.”


            Asked how long this conflict will last, Lukiin says there is no reason to think it will end soon. But Russia isn’t going anywhere.  Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko has reason to hurry but Putin doesn’t.  “In general,” he adds, Moscow would like “as an ideal” outcome “to return everything to where it was “under Yanukovich but without Yanukovich.”


            Any fighting will reflect “the false certainty of the Ukrainians that they can win.” When it becomes obvious that they can’t, Lukin says, then a settlement will be reached on Moscow’s terms. He suggests that that end point is not so far off and that “the most active in a military sense stage has already passed.”


            In presenting this interview, Gelman offers his own bitter observations: The Kremlin is violating the Russian constitution in Ukraine and consequently “any succeeding group of authorities [in Russia] can begin a judicial process against all those who are involved in this.” There will be plenty of evidence for them to use.


            “This means,” Gelman says, “that Putin will seek to remain in power forever” or that if he does pass power on to a successor, it will be someone like Sergey Shoygu who has also “violated the constitution” and thus is implicated as well.  That means that “no electoral activity has any sense, nor do legal parties” and that those in power will never give up power peacefully.


            And that in turn means, whatever happens in Ukraine that Russia faces a horrific choice in the future: “either Putin eternally or blood in the streets.”


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Putin Accepts Only ‘Imperial-Militarist’ Component of Soviet Inheritance, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 30 – Vladimir Putin is often accused of wanting to restore the Soviet system or at least its core values, but in fact, the Kremlin leader is interested in promoting the its “imperial-militarist” element and not its “revolutionary” component, a pattern that has the effect of limiting Russia’s ability to deal with the rest of the world, according to Vadim Shtepa


            In a new comentary, the Petrozavodsk-based federalist thinker notes that as a result of this, Putin is even more interested in promoting “the cult of ‘the Great Victory’” in World War II than was Brezhnev, even though “it would seem” that that event is “ever further receding into history” (


            Putin’s use of this “cult,” the commentator says, reflects the Kremlin’s understanding that it is “an extraordinarily useful technology for political repressions and territorial expansions” because “any opponent can with ease be designated ‘a fascist’” and thus deserving of destruction.


            “And so,” he continues, “the post-Soviet evolution [of Russia] has led to a strange ideological remake from the Soviet inheritance and the pre-Soviet imperial tradition,” a combination that despite its obvious logical problems as “a post-modern mix” has nonetheless “proven quite popular.”


            Shtepa traces the emergence of this particular approach to the past back to 1991.  At that time, he writes, Russia was committed to democracy and integration in the international community and explicitly rejected the imperial, militarist and revolutionary characteristics of its Soviet predecessor.  As a result, the August 1991 coup failed.


But if the coup failed, many of its values remained terribly widespread in Russia, and as a result, Shtepa says, “democratic Russia suddenly began to reproduce the archaic stereotypes of the Soviet empire,” one viewed by the world “not as one of the new states arising after the disintegration of the USSR but as a direct continuation of that same USSR only a little reduced in size as a result of the loss of formal control over the territories of the former union republics.


As a result, if 23 years ago, “Russia and the USSR were viewed as political antipodes,” in the years since, they have increasingly come to be viewed as closely linked and remarkably similar in key respects. And that shift has taken place not only among outsiders but also among members of the Russian elite.


That put Russia at odds with the other former republics of the USSR because “if they began a new and real history of their own, then Russia, the political center of which remained the Kremlin began an extension of Soviet history. And if at first this ‘succession’ involved narrowly legal issues such as membership in the UN, then later it became a matter of worldview as well.”

And because “no historical border between the USSR and the Russian Federation” was drawn, the two “began to be considered one and the same country,” even though it was Russia’s Boris Yeltsin who precipitated the demise of the Soviet Union by his actions at Beloveshchaya rather than any actions by non-Russian leaders or nations.


Many Russians today believe just the reverse and that shift in understanding “has led to a situation in which ‘the near abroad’ in contemporary Russia is conceived not as consisting of independent states but ever more as some kind of ‘separatist provinces.’”  And that has been particularly true with regard to Ukraine.


            According to Shtepa, ”the worldview sources of this conflict are rooted in the reborth imperial myth of ‘a triune people’ (the Great Russians, the Little Russians,  and the Belorussians),” a myth that Shtepa argues is „incompatible with contemporary state-legal principles.”


            Many in both Russia and the West imagined that Russia could make „a real historical breakthrough” with de-communization, Shtepa says, but that was clearly „insufficient.” Also needed was the full-scale development of federalism. „But even the most democratic and progressive Russian politicians traditionally did not view that as a priority.”


            In Shtepa’s telling, „the first major political event of independent Russia was the signing in March 1992 of the Federal Treaty.” But even this document contained within itself „fatal imperial aspects:” It was not concluded by equal subjects but between „’the center’ and ‘the provinces.’”


            And 18 months later, this document was superceded by a new Constitution which „gave the president almost tsar-like authority and significantly reduced the important of parliament.” And that bow to the past in turn in „a logical way” restarted „the endless Caucasian colonial wars.”


            Putin’s power vertical „also completely logically arose from this restorationist trend,” Shtepa says.  The Kremlin leader only had to eliminate the elections of governors and restart „great power propganda that presented Russia as ‘a beseiged fortress.’”  Unlike Yeltsin who despite everythign „distanced hmself from the Soviet heritage,” Putin took to it, but only its „imperial and militarist” portions.


            Among the contradictory products of this „imperial remake,” Shtepa says, is „imperial federalism,” which is „not a principle of the internal development of one’s own country but an instrument for the destruction of neighbors.” Indeed, while any Russian can call for it abroad, it has become dangerous to call for federalism at home.


            But Russians in the age of Putin seem untroubled by this or by another contradiction, Shtepa says.  „For a long time already no one sees any contradiction” in the fact that the tricolor, the flag of the democratic Russia of August 1991 is raised with bands playing the melody of the anything but democratic Soviet Union.

Window on Eurasia: Putin Needs ‘Not Victory but War Itself,’ Kruglyakovsky Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 30 – Vladimir Putin’s decision to move toward a full-scale invasion of Ukraine shows that he “has no other levers and resources” to achieve his will than to send in his soldiers, but it also reflects the fact that what the Kremlin leader needs is “not victory but war itself,” according to Kyiv political analyst Pavel Kruglyakovsky.


            That allows him to keep the situation unstable and others off balance and to give him the kind of freedom of action that he desires, although he has passed the point not only where he can maintain that situation but also where he must face the fact that this is “the beginning of the end” of his regime (


            “By entering into a direct military conflict with Ukraine,” the analyst says, “Putin is committing a fatal mistake” because he will not be able to escape from the current situation “without losing face,” something that he will do everything he can to avoid but that the strength of Ukrainian forces will make impossible.


            “The Russian army is far from as powerful as the majority of people in Russia itself think,” Kruglyakovsky argues. “Russia today is a colossus with feet of clay … the level of corruption in Kremlin offices is an order higher than in Ukrainian ones … And when generals steal, the men in the ranks suffer.”


            “Today everything shows that the Russian army is not so terrible and undefeatable as [Kremlin propagandist] Dmitry Kiselyev suggests in his programs.  This fact is beginning to be recognized in Kyiv; soon they will understand it in Moscow as well. The zinc caskets are already beginning to arrive in the depths of Russia.”


            Kryuglyakovsky is certain, Novy region says, that Putin cannot win a military victory in Ukraine because “a fatherland war [which is what Ukraine is fighting] is by its internal energy always stronger than the need ‘to fulfill one’s international duty’” especially in the case of a 40-million-strong nation that is prepared to sacrifice itself for its freedom.


            “How many military capable units can Putin send against the army of Ukrainians?” the analyst asks. “Even today [the Kremlin leader] is having to deceive his troops by saying that he sending them on ‘manuevers.’” And that raises an even more fundamental question: “does the Russian president need a victory in the classical sense?”


            “What would he do with the Donbas where all the infrastructure has already been destroyed by the hands of [his own] terrorists? Putin does not need ‘Novorossiya.’ Rather he needs” something else: “unstable Luhansk and Donets oblasts” within the borders of Ukraine not of Russia.


            In short, “Putin needs not victory but war itself,” Kryuglyakovsky concludes, and one that he will pursue by constantly changing the slogans and stated goals in the hopes that he can intimidate some and keep others off-balance as he searches for a way out for himself from the disaster he has caused.


Window on Eurasia: Russian Neo-Nazis Fighting for Moscow in Ukraine, Ukrainian Jewish Leader Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 30 – Iosif Zisels, the head of Vaad Ukrainy, the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine, says that neo-Nazi organizations from Russia” are taking an active role in the pro-Moscow forces in eastern Ukraine, a reflection of the fact that “Russia is infected with the ideas of revanchism, which is very closely connected with fascism.”


             Speaking in Kyiv, Zisels says that there has existed in Russia “for more than 20 years a developed system of various neo-Nazi fascist organizations which come to the fore during times of rising tensions such as in Russia during the mid-1990s and [more recently] in Moldova and Georgia (


            “Now,” he says, “they are operating in Ukraine.”


            The most powerful of them is Russian National Unity under Aleksandr Barkashov. They have formations and symbols that recall those of Nazi Germany.  Zisels says that he has information that Barkashov himself visited Ukraine in March and May and is currently in Donetsk. Along with him in the pro-Moscow formations is “fighting his son.”


            In addition to Barkashov’s group, the Ukrainian Jewish leader continues, other Russian fascist groups are now operating in Ukraine as well, including the Eurasian Youth Union of Aleksandr Dugin, the Other Russia of Eduard Limonov, the Black Hundred “and also individual activists” not affiliated with these groups.


The Russian neo-Nazis “do not have their own military units, but their members are included within other units,” a situation that in many ways is more ominous because it suggests that the views of such extremists are acceptable to the commanders of these entities and their Moscow backers.


Moreover, Zisels points out, “Russia in its interests is using also European neo-Nazis from various countries,” including as “observers” during the Crimean “referendum.” At that time, 33 of the 40 people Moscow brought in to support its position were “representatives of neo-Nazi organizations.”


            Since the beginning of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Moscow propagandists have accused Ukraine of being “neo-Nazi” or worse. But the facts on the ground as Zisels and scholars like Andreas Umland have pointed out are that the neo-Nazis are to be found on the Russian side.



Window on Eurasia: Putin Adopts Hitler’s ‘Stab in the Back’ Theory for Defeat in World War I

Paul Goble
            Staunton, August 30 – Speaking in at the Seliger youth forum yesterday, Vladimir Putin said that today as during World War I there are people inside Russia who are seeking its defeat, a resuscitation of Adolf Hitler’s “stab in the back” theory about why his country lost that conflict and the basis for his attacks on various groups.
            According to the Kremlin leader, “there is the so-called extra-systemic opposition” --although Putin acknowledged that “this is not a single whole” but rather a category which contains “various people.” But his most intriguing and disturbing comments concern the past which he clearly sees as a model (
            “The Bolsheviks,” Putin said, “in the course of the First World War wanted their own fatherland to suffer defeat. When heroic Russian soldiers and officers were shedding their blood on the fronts [of that conflict], someone shook Russian from within and pushed things to the point that Russia as a state was destroyed and declared itself to be the loser.”
            “This was a complete betrayal of national interests,” Putin continued. While he did not draw the parallel with the current situation in which many Russian opposition figures oppose his invasion of Ukraine and even are cheering on the Ukrainian forces against Russian ones, many of those who heard his words directly or indirectly certainly did.
            And at the very least, Putin’s latest borrowing from the Nazi leader’s ideas is likely to lead to the intensification of the ongoing crackdown against dissent about his war. That means that those who do oppose the war are likely to face arrest or other formers of persecution if they speak out.
            During his performance yesterday, Putin spoke on a wide variety of themes. (For a survey, see  And among his other contributions to thought were:
  • a suggestion that Kazakhstan was never a state before Nursultan Nazarbayev took over, a statement that will offend many Kazakhs including quite likely Nazarbayev himself (;
  • the idea that he is ready to shift some government functions to Siberia, a notion that will do nothing to win him more support in Moscow and only encourage regionalists to work against him (; and
  • a willingness to accept the idea that each of the non-Russian republics should be able to decide the title for their top leader, a reversal of his policy over the last several years and one that will likely lead at least some of them to demand that their presidencies be retained (
             Not only will each of these have consequences in specific areas, but their very randomness seems certain to raise more questions about whether Putin has lost connection with reality and that he is acting in the ways that dictators often do when they assume that their power allows them to say and do anything they want without reflection or coordination.
             But even if this does not have an impact in the corridors of power in Moscow, it is something that Western leaders must take into account because it means that Putin may be becoming more unpredictable and thus more dangerous, especially given his proclivity to lie in the expectation that few either inside Russia or beyond will challenge him.

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s Suppression of Tatarstan Sovereignty has Cost Every Tatar 70,000 US Dollars in Income

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 30 – Vladimir Putin’s gutting of Tatarstan’s 1990 sovereignty declaration has cost every resident of that Middle Volga republic not only his or her rights and dignity but also has meant that  some 70,000 US dollars earned from the sale of Tatarstan’s natural resources that should have gone to each of them has gone instead to Moscow.


            That is just one of the bitter reflections about what Putin has done that is contained in an article on the 24th anniversary of that declaration which occurs today by Rashit Akhmetov, one-time head of Tatarstan’s Popular Front and now editor of “Zvezda Povolzhya” (“Zvezda Povolzhya,” no. 31 (711), August 28-September 3, 2014, p. 1).


            Since Putin began his attacks on the sovereignty of Tatarstan and the other non-Russian republics within the borders of the Russian Federation, Akhmetov says, approximately 10 trillion rubles (270 billion US dollars) has gone to Moscow from the sale of Tatarstan’s natural resources instead of into the hands of the Tatars as the 1990 declaration insisted.


            But that financial loss is only a small part of the deprivations Tatars have suffered because of Putin’s policies, Akhmetov points out, and he provides a history of how the declaration came to be and what has happened to its provisions over the last quarter century by considering where Tatarstan has been on its anniversaries.


            On August 30, 1990, Tatarstan adoped its Declaration on the State Sovereignty of the Republic of Tatarstan.  By this declaration, Kazan changed Tatarstan’s status from an autonomous republic to a union republic and thus gave it the right, under the Soviet constitution, to leave the Union and become an independent country.


            Tatarstan had tried to do so four previous times: in the 1920s, in the 1930s, in the 1950s, and in the 1970s, but its fifth attempt in 1990 was the result of a combination of circumstances that meant, the Kazan editor says, that had the August 1991 coup “taken place several weeks later, the history of Tatarstan would have been different:” It would now be an independent state.


            According to Akhmetov, “the parade of sovereignties” of which Tatarstan was a part “was organized by the apparatus of the USSR president who used it as a means of pressure on Boris Yeltsin and on the recalcitrant Supreme Soviet of Russia.” Mikhail Gorbachev’s chief operative in this regard was Gumer Usmanov, the former Tatarstan first secretary.


            Usmanov was Gorbachev’s chief advisor on nationality policy, Akhmetov continues, and he in turn employed as his assistant Oleg Moronov, a young intellectual, who as “the living embodiment of the idea of Euro-Communism” in Tatarstan and one of those who succeeded in overcoming the opposition of conservatives and installing Mintimir Shaimiyev as Usmanov’s successor in Kazan.


            “Thus,” Akhmetov continues, “Mikhail Gorbachev to a large extent opened the way to the real sovereignty of Tatarstan,” an opening that he says the leadership of the republic succeeded in using about “70 percent.”  An achievement but one somewhat less than they and many others hoped for.


            Many people remember that Boris Yeltsin told the Tatars to “take as much sovereignty as you can swallow,” the Kazan editor says, but in fact, it was Gorbachev not Yeltsin who promoted the sovereignty declarations. And it was Yeltsin who worked step by step once he became president of the Russian Federation to rein them in.


            Initially, the anniversary of the adoption of the declaration of state sovereignty was marked in Tatarstan as a significant political event, one in which all leaders and thousands of people turned out and in which military formations and VIPs from other parts of the Russian Federation took part.


            But with time, it lost that importance and even was renamed the Day of the Republic as the content of the original declaration was destroyed.  Today, Akhmetov says, he has the impression that “the current celebration has been changed into a not entirely comfortable show” and that those invited from elsewhere have been given “unwritten” instructions not to come.


            More seriously, he continues, the provisions of the 1990 declaration, even though they were ratified by referendum and enshrined in the Treaty on the Delimitation of Authority between the Republic of Tatarstan and the Russian Federation, are no longer implemented.  The republic and its citizens now “do not have any of the rights proclaimed” in it.”


            Tatarstan and the Tatars do not own the natural resources under their territory and so they have not enjoyed the earnings from them. Moscow has taken almost all of these and left Kazan with little.  The Tatar language has suffered, and Russian is used in 95 percent of the cases of official and educational life.


            Indeed, Akhmetov argues, with regard to language, “the Soviet Union was much more democratic than contemporary Russia,” and “despite all the efforts of the Tatar intelligentsia, the Tatar language [even within the borders of the republic] remains a second-class affair.”  And no one now talks about Tatarstan citizenship.


            Given all this, the editor concludes with obvious bitterness, it might be better or at least more honest if the republic’s State Council would just go ahead and denounce the 1990 declaration and rename the territory either “the Autonomous Republic of Tatarstan” or go all the way and call it what some in Moscow want: “the Kazan oblast.”




Friday, August 29, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Military Review Lists Seven ‘Probable’ Targets in ‘Novorossiya’

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 29 – “Voyennoye obozreniye,” an online Moscow journal directed at the Russian military and military analysts, has published today  list of seven targets Russian forces are likely to attack in the course of what it describes as “the probable future of the war for Novorossiya.”


            Of course, which ones the Kremlin and Russian commanders will attack and in what order depends not only on Ukrainian resistance but also on the reaction of the West to Moscow’s moves. But this list itself says something about the nature and scope of Vladimir Putin’s intentions in Ukraine (


            While the fighting in eastern Ukraine is intense and while not everything is going well for Russian and pro-Moscow forces, the post suggests that it is nonetheless possible to speak about “major breakouts” as it describes these actions or attacks as they would certainly be perceived by the Ukrainian side.


            The first target, the “Voyennoye obozreniye” article says, is Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces have concentrated themselves and from which they must be dislodged so that the insurgents can continue to be supplied by Russia.


            The second, it continues, is Volnovakha, again a site where Ukrainian forces are concentrated and one that represents a potential “place des armes for cutting off the Azov group of forces from the main ones.


            The third is Donetsk and especially the airport there which currently is in Ukrainian hands. “The enemy must be driven out of well-fortified places where it has already been sitting for two to three months,” the Moscow publication says.


            The fourth target is Debaltsevo which must be taken by a flanking operation in order to destroy “the lion’s share” of Ukrainian artillery and thus defeat the Ukrainian forces in the region as a whole.


            The fifth is the Lisichansk-Rubezhnoye-Severodonetsk area, a naturally defendable position which the Moscow journal says Ukrainian forces have been fortifying in the course of recent weeks and from which they must be driven.


            The sixth is Luhansk and the areas around it to relieve pressure on the insurgents there.  And the seventh and perhaps most important are efforts to prevent Ukraine from bringing reserves into play by mobilizing the population. The journal implied that military attacks must be coordinated with the requirements of information war in this regard.


            In the immediate future, the publication says, there is going to be “a difficult struggle” for Novorossiya.” Indeed, it says, “what is taking place now can be compared with the historic battle near Moscow” during World War II.  But just like with that battle, it says, pro-Russian forces can change the course of this war.


            And Moscow’s “Voyennoye obozreniye” concludes that the insurgents can look forward to a better future if they do. Those forces, it says, “need [only] resist for a couple more months, and then the forces of the [Ukrainian] junta will become” a much less serious problem for Novorossiya and Russia as well.




Window on Eurasia: Putin Commits Himself to ‘Novorossiya’

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 29 – Given how often Vladimir Putin lies, it may be a mistake to make too much of any of his statements as an indication of where he is heading. But his use of the term “Novorossiya” in his statement yesterday, the first time he has talked about that space within Ukraine as a contemporary issue, is worrisome.


            That is because it suggests that the Kremlin leader is doubling down on his invasion of Ukraine and plans to create a Transdniestria-like “partially recognized state” and “frozen conflict” in a large swath of southeastern Ukraine regardless of Ukrainian and international opposition to his aggression.


            According to Ekho Moskvy journalist Vladimir Varfolomeyev, a search of the records of Putin’s official statements shows that Putin has used the term “Novorossiya” only once before, in the course of his conversation with Russian citizens, and did so explicitly in terms of history rather than current events (


            On that earlier occasion, Putin said that Novorossiya included Kharkov, Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Nikolayev and Odessa, areas that he said “were not included within Ukraine in tsarist times” but “handed over to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government.  Why they did this, God alone knows,” the Kremlin leader said.


            But as a result of that Soviet action, the “victories of Potemkin and Catherine II” were ignored and Novorossiya disappeared. “For various reasons, these territories disappeared,” Putin said, but the people there remained.”


            (Although the Ekho Moskvy commentator does not point this out and Putin certainly does not stress, tsarist Russia was not divided into ethnic republics. There were Ukrainians and Georgians and Uzbeks, among others, but there as not a Ukraine or a Georgia or an Uzbekistan as an officially recognized entity.)


            Now, as Varfolomeyev points out, unlike in his Putin’s April remarks, “’Novorossiya’ has been transformed from a subject of historical interest into a subject of policy. If of course,” the Ekho Moskvy commentator adds, “words today still have any meaning,” given Putin’s cavalier treatment of the truth.


            Other Moscow commentators are also discussing the meaning of Putin’s attachment to the idea of “Novorossiya.”  One of the most thoughtful observations is provided by Vitaly Portnikov, who suggests that Putin sees Novorossiya as something he can seize and then create the kind of state he wants more generally (


            The Moscow commentator says that Putin in some ways is like Stalin but in other ways is not. Like Stalin, he works at night at least when it comes to Ukraine, but he does this not because he prefers to sleep during the day as Stalin did, Portnikov says, but rather “simply because then Obama isn’t sleeping.”


            But unlike Stalin, he continues, Putin didn’t take Russia away from his rivals but was handed it by his predecessor in order to save it. Novorossiya offers Putin a chance to seize something and thus make it his own in the way that Stalin made Soviet Russia his own via collectivization, the purges and war.


            “Therefore,” Portnikov says, “for Putin, the first real country is not Russia but Novorossiya. He has taken it out of the hands of its own population and is now creating it according to his own image,” one that involves a situation in which “it is possible to shot, kill and torture without punishment.”


            “It is certain,” the commentator continues, that Putin “already feels himself president of both these countries … enormous Russia” which he did not seize earlier and “little Novorossiya” which he is in the process of taking and in which he is showing exactly what kind of a regime he would like to extend to Russia.


            But Portnikov says, Putin is mistaken in this. “In Russia he really is president,” but “in Novorossiya, he is a night porter.”  And “there where in battles and tortures is being creating the ideal Putinist Russia, he is not present.” But in some ways that makes his obsession with Novorossiya even more disturbing than as an occasion of military aggression.


            That is because, the commentator says, it shows exactly what he wants to do in Russia itself and in any other territories he can, like Stalin, “take away” from someone else.