Sunday, December 4, 2016

One Russian ‘Monogorod’ May Soon Drop Off that Government List But There are More than 300 Others Still On It

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 4 – Russian media are celebrating the fact this soon one of the country’s “monogorods” or company towns in which a single industry dominates everything may be dropped from that list as soon as 2018; but they concede that more than 300 such places remain and that even if the government meets its goals, there will be 285 at the end of 2025.

            “Izvestiya” reported this past week that the city of Cherepovets in Vologda Oblast may soon be dropped from the list because of the effectiveness of its leaders in attracting new industry and thus employment for one of the rust belt-like company towns across the Russian Federation (

            But the paper conceded that even if it is dropped, there will be at least 318 other such hard-pressed places in which some 14 million residents – ten percent of the country’s population -- now live.  And it noted that the government isn’t even promising to help these places out very quickly: Its program calls for reducing them only to 310 by 2018 and 285 by 2025.

            In discussing what is an indictment of the Putin regime for its failure to invest in these cities during the “fat” years of high oil prices and its inability now in those of the “thin,” Aleksandr Chizhenov of “Kommsersant” spoke with Roman Popov of the Institute for the Economy of the City (

            The urban affairs expert reminds that “the federal monogorod list exists in order that the government will understand the objects of its potential support,” which range from small settlements to large cities and from those that have already entered a dangerous crisis stage to those which are eeking out a more stable existence.

            Popov suggested that one of the reason Cherepovets was doing better is that the local business and political leaders are committed to saving the city and because that company town is one of the rare ones which is not an oblast center and thus is not entangled in the center-periphery struggles of the latter.

            But the large number of company towns still on the list that do not enjoy those advantages and are not coming back almost certainly means that these will be the site of worker unrest of the kind Vladimir Putin personally intervened to address in a few cases but cannot possibly intervene in that way in all.


Moscow’s Call for Central Control over All Muslim Communities Denounced as Dangerous

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 4 – A call by Igor Barinov, head of the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs (FADN), to “forcibly” put all Muslim communities and mosques under the central control of Moscow has been denounced by experts on the North Caucasus as a move that not only will provoke violence but also contribute to the spread of Islamist extremism.

            Barinov spoke twice to a regional meeting in Pyatigorsk last week. In his first address, he said that FADN has now set as its task ensuring that “all cult buildings are required to reregister with centralized muftiates” so as to isolate independent ones that in his opinion are “often preparing future radicals” (

            According to Anton Chablin of Kavkazskaya politika, his suggestion “was actively discussed in the corridors” where “activists who had come from Daghestan and Ingushetia predicted that an attempt to ‘centralize’ all Muslims in their republics would involve an enormous number of conflicts between Sufis and Salafis.”

            Unfortunately, those expressing that opinion on the sidelines of the Fourth Russian Caucasus conference were not in a position to express the same views from the podium and thus allow Barinov to see very clearly how much or how little support there is for what he is proposing to do.
            On the second day of the meeting, Barinov delivered another address, one in which he admitted that “today, despite all the efforts of the federal authorities, there are problem areas in every republic” in the North Caucasus involving militants, their defeat and their reintegration into society.

            According to him, “almost all contemporary conflicts are one way or another connected with the redistribution of land,” but, he added, “this is only the tip of the iceberg: the real cause is corruption, the role of ethnic clans in the republic governments, and the criminalization of the regional authorities.”

            These problems, Barinov continued, typically have taken on a “religious-ethnic” dimension and have sparked an exodus of the Russian-speaking population.  He said that he would “concentrate all efforts of FADN to block this outflow” in the future.

            Apparently, many of the independent experts at the meeting but few of the officials disagreed with the FADN head. The latter almost without exception declared that in their respective republics things were good and would get even better.  But there was one notable exception: Ramazan Abdulatipov, the head of Daghestan.

            He sharply criticized the “main ‘child’ of FADN” – plans to adopt a new federal law on the Russian nation, and he said that Moscow had failed to recognize that his republic and by implication others were doing the best they could in what are difficult economic times for which they are not responsible.

Moscow Won’t Accept Finlandization of Ukraine, Markov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 4 – The Kremlin’s goals with respect to Ukraine almost certainly preclude any compromise even with the incoming Trump Administration: Sergey Markov, who is close to the Kremlin and Russia’s intelligence services, says that the US under Trump “is ready to leave Ukraine but on conditions that are unacceptable for Russia.”

            Those conditions, the Moscow politician and commentator says, woud be Russian acceptance of “the Finlandization of Ukraine.” The Americans have already proposed that, he says, on the basis of the idea that this would be a compromise everyone could live with (

            Under its terms, Markov says, “Russia wouldn’t think about reaching the Carpathians and thee Americans wouldn’t think about crossing the Dniepr.” But “we consider that this is an incorrect approach” because Moscow believes that “we must return power in Ukraine to the people” and that the people will want to be closer to Moscow than that.

                That will require regime change in Ukraine, he continues, because “the Ukrainian people cannot change the powers that be because it lives under conditions of dictatorship. Earlier, there was democracy in Ukraine. Now, there is a Banderite dictatorship.” That must be changed in order to resolve the crisis.

            Markov’s words suggest that the Kremlin’s goals remain far greater than any Western government can accept because they require that the West agree to or at least acquiesce in Moscow’s undermining and replacement of the current government in Kyiv and in Ukraine becoming a Russian satellite rather than a country in between in the manner of Finland.

            Markov’s remarks only add to the importance of three other declarations this past week:

            The first is Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s statement that “Ukraine is now fighting to bury the Soviet Union in the heads of certain people” because while it has died officially, it hasn’t died in the minds of many and Moscow continues to view Ukraine as “a colony” (

            The second is Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov’s conclusion that “no one,” including pro-Putin politicians in Europe, “will recognize Crimea” as part of the Russian Federation because to do so would undermine the international system of which they are a part (

                And despite Moscow’s continuing assertions that sanctions against it will soon be lifted, Portnikov adds, the sanctions are still in place, although they may be lifted eventually. But they are already playing an essential role and as long as they remain will continue to do so because even when they are lifted Russia will be that much further behind the West and thus weaker.

            And the third is evidence that there is “new life” to the idea of a Baltic-Black Sea initiative now that the former leaders of the region have come together in the search for peace rather than a military alliance against Russia and have agreed to include in their number a Russian representative (

                Irina Vereshchuk, the head of the International Center for Baltic-Black Sea Research and Consensus, tells Radio Liberty that including a Russian representative is not a retreat from the group’s purposes which are to ensure security for all in the region but a way for the countries “in between” to achieve exactly that (

            “We are convinced that war which could begin at any moment would touch not only Ukraine. Today, Ukraine is suffering, but tomorrow it could be Poland and other countries, and the EU and NATO cannot ensure” that Russia will not “annex or occupy” even Latvia or Lithuania.

            “Therefore,” Vereshchuk continues, “we have taken on ourselves responsibility and will try to develop common positions not against someone but for peace, for unity and for cooperation. This will be a platform on which it should be possible to listen to the opinion of this side. And this, I think, will be effective.”

            “We have an action plan,” she says, “and we will propose it to the governments of the EU and the US, a plan of getting out of the global crisis which has arisen today.” She adds that Ukrainian President Poroshenko “supports our initiative and welcomes it” and says that her group will work to hold inter-parliamentary hearings in the next few weeks.