Monday, June 27, 2016

Lack of Solidarity Among Russian Opposition an Ominous Echo of 1937, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – The reaction of many Russian opposition figures to the arrest of corrupt figures today eerily and ominously echoes the reaction of many ordinary Soviet citizens to the arrest and then execution of many corrupt officials in the late 1930s, according to Irina Pavlova, a US-based Russian historian.

            And the fact that opposition leaders today welcome such arrests in much the same way that Soviet citizens approved analogous events in 1937-1938 not only strengthens the regime in power but opens the way to even more ugly manifestations of its power over society, she argues (

            The historian says that she was shocked in a negative way by Gary Kasparov’s reaction to the arrest of Kirov governor Nikita Belykh for corruption.  Kasparov called him “a gauleiter,” a view that other “representatives of progressive society share.”  Some dispute this notion at the margins but “the main thing in this is the completely absence of solidarity.”

            If one looks carefully at what is going on in Russia today, one sees that there is “a campaign of repression against local bureaucrats which in essence recalls the campaign of the Great Terror, as Yekaterina Schulmann pointed out yesterday on Ekho Moskvy (

            That is exactly what occurred in 1937-1938, Pavlova says. And she suggests that Russians today should reflect on the words of Soviet writer Aleksandr Gladkov in his notes about events at that time ( lest they fall into the same trap many Soviet citizens did then.

            “Progressive [Russian] society is talking a lot about Nikita Belykh only because he came out of its milieu,” she points out. It has largely ignored what has happened to or what may happen to the leaders of other regions under Putin. And like its Soviet predecessors, such Russians today are reacting “as a rule with satisfaction” rather than fear and anger.

            In the 1930s, ordinary people and members of the intelligentsia expressed “satisfaction” or even “joy” about what they described as “the only just sentence” by Stalin’s tribunals of regional and local officials whom many in the population had every reason to hate but who were less of a threat to them than Stalin himself.

            In his diary, Gladkov wrote: “I am far from the high political circles and cannot judge about the political and moral level of such people as Pyatakov, Sokolnikov, Radek and the others … Let’s allow that they are scoundrels. This smacks of the settling of accounts. Doing that is a human characteristic but not there where this smells of blood.”

            Pavlova points out that “repressions against elites and local bosses today is only the visible part” of what is going on.   The persecution of “so-called extremists, especially in the provinces is an invisible campaign which in practice does not fall into the field of view of progressive society except for particular cases.”

             Some will respond that “the Great Terror and today’s campaign are incomparable in scope.” But scope is not the only measure, she says. Rather one must focus on what is going on and what its consequences will be for the future of the country. And those are “obvious: the further strengthening of the powers that be and the consolidation of the people around [them].”

Primakov Offers Five Lessons Today’s Russian Leaders Aren’t Following, Bordyugov and Rybakov Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – Yevgeny Primakov died a year ago and most remarkably has continued to be treated as an unalloyed positive way in Russia. That sets him apart from almost all other Moscow figures of the last 30 years and suggests that his approach has some important lessons for current Russian leaders, according to Gennady Bordyugov and Aleksandr Rybakov.

            Writing in “Tribuna,” the head of the International Association of Researchers on Russian Society and the advisor to the Moscow Center for International Trade list five such lessons, the result of their work compiling a ten-volume collection of Primakov’s works (

            Primakov’s first lesson, they suggest, is that it is not only necessary but possible for those in senior posts to “follow the same moral norms that are obligatory for everyone else.”  Such officials are not exempt from those norms as some PR and political technology types now often suggest. Russians felt that was true of Primakov; they do not see the same in others.

            His second lesson, the two analysts say, is that Primakov never had a permanent suite of followers who moved with him as he advanced from one position to another. Instead, he shifted “like a knight” alone and only then formed a team from those on the staff of the organizations and structures he headed.

            According to Bordyugov and Rybakov, only “the weak and those lacking in self-confidence” need to have staffs who go with them wherever they do.  “The strong and independent,” they suggest, “do not need such entourages.” Instead, they are accustomed to forming them anew and taking responsibility as a result.

            Primakov’s third lesson is that “everywhere he turned up, he intentionally began to assemble around himself those who agreed with them or to make those who didn’t earlier into his supporters.” That ensured that he was part of the structure he headed and trusted as such rather than an outsider who brought his senior staff and imposed himself and them on it.

            That approach had a further advantage: it ensured the formation and maintenance of “a social consensus on vitally important issues of the development of the country, and that in turn means a method of gaining the trust of the population.” Primakov did so; more recent Russian leaders have not behaved in the same way or gained the same level of trust.

            Primakov’s fourth lesson is that “a politician of high rank is required to be far-sighted and precise.”  That means he is cautious and careful and acts only after reflection thus not creating problems that could have been avoided and that he is then forced to return to in order to solve.

            And Primakov’s fifth lesson, Bordyugov and Rybakov argue, lies in the real meaning of what many now call the Primakov Doctrine.  Many say that it means extracting the maximum useful for Russia out of any situation.  But in fact, the two analysts say, it means much more than that rather banal idea.

            Yes, they write, Primakov certainly believed in extracting maximum advantage, but he also believed that it was absolutely necessary to do so by taking into consideration the interests of partners, the balance of forces in any particular place, and the creation or maintenance of “a parity of interests of the leading world players.”

            “Primakov knew,” Bordyugov and Rybakov write, “that with concessions and compromises it is possible to achieve a great deal. He understood that the interests of the country will only really be secured” when one approaches issues carefully and does not behave “like a bull in a china shop.”

            And they conclude with obvious regret and some hope: “How useful it would be if even a small part of the experience of this Primakov diplomacy were to be absorbed and adopted by those who now, by their clumsy actions, create for [Russia] problems and then try heroically to overcome them!”

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Muscovites Who Summer in Moscow Oblast Putting Unbearable Burdens on the Latter, Resident Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 26 – Approximately five million Muscovites leave the city in the summertime, at least during the day, with the vast majority of them going to dachas in Moscow oblast where they get all the benefits of local oblasts without having to pay any taxes to that region, according to oblast resident Stanislav Barykhanov.

            The only way forward, he says in a comment for “Svobodnaya pressa,” is to have Moscow and Moscow oblast unite in an act of “mutual swallowing” that will allow city residents the chance to spend time in their dachas and allow oblast residents with the chance to get on with their own lives (

            According to realtors in the Russian capital, “more than three million” of the city’s residents have dachas outside the city limits, most of whom have them in the surrounding Moscow oblast.  In addition, there are more than 500,000 people who work in the city but live in the oblast year around.

            This pattern reflects the high prices for and small sizes of Moscow city apartments and the continuing urbanization of Russia, Barykhanov says. Consequently, the summer influx of Muscovites only adds to the problems caused by the influx of Russians from more distant parts of the country year round.

            One consequence of the flight from the city in summer times is that the population of the Russian capital is five million less in the summer months than in the winter.  That may make things easier for Muscovites, but it only adds to the problems of the oblast, problems for which there is now no money to address.

            Everyone in both the city and the oblast knows about the overcrowded highways and shortcomings in other infrastructure, he continues; but few reflect on the fact that the city residents who have dachas in the oblast don’t pay taxes to the latter and thus leave oblast residents with a burden greater than they can carry.

            The only way forward, Barykhanov says, is for Moscow city and Moscow oblast to “unite into one federal subject. In fact, we live together already … [and] a single system of administration will permit the more effective resolution of many sharp problems,” including regulation of migration and maintenance of infrastructure.

            But even more important, he says, unification will help save “the natural and man-made beauty of this unique historical corner of Russia which,” Barykhanov reminds, “belongs equally to Muscovites and to us, the aboriginals.”