Tuesday, September 19, 2017

‘For Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania Should Not Exist,’ Russian Expert on Baltic Region Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 19 – Nikolay Mezhevich, a St. Petersburg professor who heads the Russian Association of Baltic Research, says that “for Russia the [three Baltic] countries should not exist” and that there are no prospects for an improvement in relations because the Baltic regimes can function only as anti-Russian actors.

            In an interview with Rubaltic’s Aleksandr Nosovich following a conference at the Kant Baltic Federal University in Kaliningrad on relations between Russia and Poland, Mezhevich says that relations with Warsaw while bad now can improve but those with the Baltic countries never can (rubaltic.ru/article/politika-i-obshchestvo/19092017-s-polshey-u-rossii-vozmozhny-khoroshie-otnosheniya-s-litvoy-net-/).

                Russians and Poles, he continues, have “a common mentality: they are similar people with a common understanding of life. “But “with Lithuania, normalization is impossible,” in any case, Mezhevich says, he does not expect to live to see it.  That is because Vilnius like Riga and Tallinn can only exist by blaming Russia for all of their own shortcomings. 

            Asked by Nosovich what the “optimal” Russian policy toward the Baltic countries should be, the St. Petersburg professor is blunt: “There are no such countries. For Russia, there are no such countries. Legally, they exist, but we do not maintain any economic or political contacts with them.” The Baltics are thus “a dead zone, a Chernobyl.” 

            He nonetheless opposes breaking diplomatic relations with them. “Why given them that happiness?” Mezhevich asks rhetorically. “They are always dreaming about this. But the presence of diplomatic ties does not mean that me should develop any contacts with them because in these countries already nothing will change.”

            Regardless of who wins elections in any of them, “the political regimes [of the three] are set in stone once and for all and will not change. Any Baltic politician who falls into the System will instantly be ‘worked over’” until he fits in with that reality. This is clear in Lithuania and Estonia, “and in Latvia it will be the same.”

Calls to Restore the Chinese Name for Tuva Rile Russians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 19 – Tuva seldom gets much attention except from stamp collectors who prize its triangle-shaped postage stamps that were issued when it was nominally independent before 1944 and from admirers of the late Richard Feynman, whose passion for it was described in Ralph Leighton’s 1991 book, Tuva or Bust.

            It did attract the interest of some when during perestroika, violent clashes between Tuvans and ethnic Russians led to the departure of many of the latter. (At present, Tuva, located on the Mongolian border, has approximately 320,000, 80 percent of whom are ethnic Tuvans, according to the 2010 census.)

            But Tuva’s obscurity may soon be about to change because an activist there has resuscitated earlier calls to restore the name the region had when it was part of China before 1917, the Uryankhai, calls that have alarmed some Russians who see this as a threat to the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.
            Earlier this month, Igor Irgit, a Tuvan activist, published a long article in Tuvinskaya Pravda calling for the change, arguing that it was a matter of simple justice to ensure that people there know their long history and thus that it would represent something similar to what the Sakha have done in Yakutia (tuvapravda.ru/?q=content/vernyom-nazvanie-uranhay).
            “No one knows from where or even when we took the name Tuva or Tyva and what this means. I have nothing against it,” he continued, “but Uryankhai is closer to my heart.”  Some Tuvans, like Sholban Kara-ool in 2014, have called for this change but not gotten enough support to allow it to happen.

            But “perhaps now,” Irgit says, “this idea has matured and it is time finally to return the true name of the republic to it and to us.” 

            The very idea has outraged some Russians who see in it an effort to mobilize those in Tuva who would like independence or a move by forces in Mongolia or China to reacquire a territory they lost a century ago.  These objections are highlighted in an article by the Regnum news agency’s Siberian editorial staff this week (regnum.ru/news/polit/2323276.html).

            Boris Myshlyavtsev, a Russian ethnographer, says there is no good reason for renaming Tuva. The name, which derives from local toponymy, is ancient; and no one calls the place Uryankhai now except for the Republic of China on Taiwan.  More important, no one in Tuvan calls himself or herself a Uryankhai.

            But the lack of obvious support for the idea does not mean that it should not be nipped in the bud, Anatoly Savostin, a Russian political scientist says. Such “initiatives,” he argues, are designed to “group together definite forces inclined to greater independence in the framework of the state.”

            “It is not excluded,” he continues, “that after renaming it Uryankhai, some will begin to speak about the need to shift [from the Cyrillic] to the Latin script and so on.”  At the very least, all such things will introduce splits within Tuvan society, and such dangers should be a matter of concern for the security services. 

Russia is Under Terrorist Attack and Moscow Doesn’t Know What to Do, Nesmiyan Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 19 – Every day for the last two weeks, tens of thousands of Russians have been evacuated from shopping malls, government offices and other facilities in response to anonymous telephone calls saying that bombs have been planted in these places (takiedela.ru/news/2017/09/19/zvonki-po-uprave/ and  themoscowtimes.com/news/bomb-scares-continue-across-russia-costing-authorities-more-than-5-mln-58980).

Moscow officials have been unwilling to acknowledge that Russia is “under a terrorist attack” or even report about it, Rosbalt blogger Anatoly Nesmiyan points out. But regional and local media are filled with stories about this, and they highlight that Moscow clearly doesn’t know what to do (rosbalt.ru/posts/2017/09/19/1647114.html).

“This by the way,” he continues, is “a quite bad sign,” one that suggests that “the authorities obviously are not capable of getting involved and influencing the situation.”  They aren’t even talking about tightening the screws or taking some other propagandistic measures to address they situation: they are simply remaining silent, he says.

And the Russian people can see this perhaps more clearly than ever before given that local and regional media and numerous Internet sites are giving dry reporting about what is going on, the kind that is especially frightening because it is understated rather than hyperbolic and alarmist.

For Russians, it is clear that “such massive and coordinated attacks are something that the country had not known or scene before” and that it constitutes a test of ability of the system to warn about and oppose. But as of today, “no real opposition to the terrorists is yet being observed.” 

And that raises even more questions about the powers that be than it does about who may be behind this new and all too real terrorist wave.