Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Clashes between Russians and Muslims Spreading to Universities in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 12 – Conflicts between Russians and Muslims on the streets and in the Russian military have a long history, but now they are spreading to an important part of daily life -- in higher educational institutions where some administrators now calling for the students to be separated by ethnicity and religion to prevent more clashes.

            This phenomenon came to broad public attention this week when a video clip showing a Russian student being forced to publicly apologize for his comments about Caucasian women that Muslim students found offensive and denigrating attracted more than a million views online (ura.news/articles/1036273236).

            “This is not the first such incident” even in elite higher educational institutions like the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, Stanislav Zakharkin says in his report for the URA news agency.  Earlier, a Russian joke about the Koran led to a situation in which one foreign student was forced to leave her Russian university and ultimately the country itself. 

                Aleksandr Safonov, the pro-rector of the Academy, says that no one knows how many such clashes there have been because no one is keeping a record of the statistics.  But he says that it is his impression that the numbers may be growing and increasingly reflect religious and ethnic differences rather than between urban and rural groups as was true in Soviet times.

            The pro-rector suggests that the higher educational institutions can and should address this issue, possibly by “dividing” the students and explaining to each group how the other perceives it and what is the best way to overcome such differences.

            Maksim Shevchenko, a Muslim commentator who is a member of the Presidential Human Rights council, plays down the importance of these clashes, “Conflict,” he says, “is the essence of human nature” and a way to learn; and he dismisses the idea that such clashes are about nationality.

            “One must not speak about Russians and Caucasians in general,” he continues.  There are sad cases in all nations, and what is important is to learn when ethnic and religious differences matter, when they don’t, and how to address these differences in a civilized war.

            Others are pushing for a tougher set of reactions. Arslan Khasavov, a writer who is a member of the Russian Council on the North Caucasus, says universities and especially elite ones must impose administrative punishments on those who get out of hand. And if things go even further, they should refer matters to the police for criminal prosecution.

            The URA news agency reports that the Russian magistracy has begun an investigation into the case shown on the video clip and that the head of the Union of Chechen Youth in the Russian capital says that he will meet with and try to educate those Muslims who did the attacking in this case.

Nearly a Third of Active NGOs in Russia Getting Foreign Funding

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 12 – Newly released figures show that only about ten percent of the roughly 200,000 non-governmental organizations registered with the state are in fact actually functioning but also that three percent of the total number get foreign funding (regnum.ru/news/society/2356192.html and  iq.hse.ru/news/212286708.html).

            Combining those figures which were compiled respectively by the Social Chamber and the Higher School of Economics and which because of the vagaries of registration must be treated with caution suggests that approximately 30 percent of the Russian NGOs that are actually in operation are receiving support from abroad.

            These numbers highlight not only the weakness of Russian civil society in this regard but also and especially the dangers inherent in Vladimir Putin’s ongoing campaign to label all groups receiving funding from abroad “foreign agents,” an effort that because there are so many in this category further chills public life in the Russian Federation.

‘Sleeping Anti-Semitism’ Set to Re-Awaken in Putin’s Fascist State, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 12 – Despite reports that the number of anti-Semitic actions have declined in Russia, the real situation regarding Russian attitudes toward Jews is disturbing, Igor Yakovenko says. Not only did Jewish emigration jump by seven times after the Crimean Anschluss, but anti-Semitic messages are finding an ever-larger audience.

            Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea opened the way for a whole range of xenophobias, the Russian analyst says. Among the most widely and insistently promoted of these over the last four years have been anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, and anti-Ukrainianism (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A2F7E0E514BC).

                But none of these targets is entirely useful as an enemy. “America is far away, the West is something abstract, and one can’t distinguish Ukrainians from Russians.” Moreover, Moscow television keeps saying that “Ukrainians are good and all of them love Russia.” Thus only America really works as Putin would like.

            However, his regime needs an enemy, “a real, mortal and eternal one” to justify the actions and to make it easier for the population to put up with them.  As conditions in Russia deteriorate, “the most insidious phobia, anti-Semitism, awaits its time,” with those behind it ready to take it from the bottom of Pandora’s box for their own purposes.

            There are signs of this for those who keep their eyes and ears open, Yakovenko says. The Duma’s vice speaker, Petr Tolstoy, not long ago said that “today’s liberals are descendants of those who ‘broke out of the pale of settlement with revolvers in their hands’ and began to destroy churches.”

            The Russian Orthodox church “suddenly has demanded a new investigation into the murder of the tsarist family declaring its own conviction that this was a ritual murder,” something that prompted government officials to immediately start doing that. Only “idiots” could accept the notion put out by Father Shevkunov that this isn’t a blood libel on the Jews.

            These two odious figures are only “the holes through which the hidden stratum of Russian anti-Semitism rises to the surface,” the Russian commentator says.  Of course, “officially,” the Russian Orthodox Church “doesn’t support anti-Semitism,” but many of its parishioners, priests and hierarchs are infected with it.

            The Russian church hasn’t confronted and then broken with its anti-Semitic past in the way that the Roman Catholic Church has, he continues, and that sends a message to the population.   There, everyday hostility to Jews can easily break out if conditions permit it; and then anti-Semitism will eclipse all other phobias.

            “The probability that this hour is approaching,” Yakovenko suggests, “exists.” And it is present even though Putin has made the defeat of Nazism the center of his ideological universe.  But everyone should remember that so did Stalin and that did not prevent the Soviet dictator from turning to anti-Semitism at the end of his life.

            But there is a more recent event in Russian history which is more suggestive.  That was the victory of Israel in the Six Day war of 1967. Then the USSR and its bloc which had backed the defeated Arab forces broke diplomatic relations with Israel, and the Soviet government visited its anger on Jews within its borders.

                Incapable of attacking Israel, Moscow restricted the careers of Jewish children and created “in fact a new version of ‘the pale of settlement’ only with its borders being not geographic” as was the case under the tsars “but defined by career possibilities.”

            The same thing could easily happen if a new war in the Middle East should break out and draw in Israel.  And such a war is something Putin may be promoting for in his world “war is vitally necessary and it has become for his regime a narcotic.”  He can’t easily start or think he can win one in Europe and so he may be ready to provoke one in the Middle East.

            Putin’s “allies” there are “Iran, Hezbollah, and Hammas ,” all of whom “openly put as their goal the destruction of the State of Israel.” Consequently, even if Russia and Israel don’t clash directly, clashes between Israel and Putin’s allies are increasingly likely, Yakovenko argues.

            And he concludes: “The Putin regime is a dictatorship of the fascist type. In such regimes, anti-Semitism can for some periods of time be sleeping, but one should never forget about the mortal danger it represents.”