Wednesday, August 26, 2015

‘Russia has Two Misfortunes – Fools and Roads – But Roads at Least Can Be Repaved’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 26 – Recent weeks, Russian commentator Vladimir Garmatyuk writes, have brought fresh evidence that as the old saying has it, “Russia suffers from two misfortunes – fools and roads.” But he suggests that these are not equivalent because at least “the roads can be repaved” (

            He was driven to that conclusion, he says because of the Putin regime’s decision to destroy embargoed food when many Russians are hungry and because of the Starvropol governor’s plans to cut back on livestock on private plots. “No living being in nature consciously destroys his own food” or destroys the basis of his food supply.

            Keeping up with the flood of confirming examples is impossible, but two new developments over the last 24 hours confirm Garmatyuk’s observation: a proposal by a Duma deputy to license shamans and fortune tellers and Security Council secretary Nikolay Patrushev’s suggestion that Russian officials who use Google or Yahoo are threatening national security.

            Today’s “Novyye izvestiya” reports that Sergey Kalashnikov, the chairman of the Duma’s committee on health, has announced that he has prepared draft legislation that would create a government organization to license those who offer their services as healers (

            He says he came up with the idea because “an enormous number of charlatans work in this area” and consequently, “this requires regulation.” Under the terms of his bill, those who offer such services will have to present documentation showing they are qualified to perform the services they offer or certificates of their training in Chinese, Tibetan or other traditions.

            At the present time, there are no criminal sanctions against those who offer such services, but it appears likely that Kalashnikov’s measure would impose them as a way of punishing anyone who refuses to register with the authorities or whose application for certification is rejected.

            “Of course,” the paper’s Anatoly Stepovoy says in his article entitled “Licenses for Shamans,” “legislators have the right” to regulate activities. “But the question arises” whether this makes much sense given the sad state of Russia’s medical care system, one in which doctors are often hundreds of miles away from those in need.

            But instead of addressing that problem, Duma members prefer to focus on things like this, the journalist says, adding that from what he can tell, such a shaman-licensing operation would simply become yet another means for officials to corruptly extract bribes from the population.

            The other example of the problem to which Garmatyuk draws attention is offered by one of the Kremlin’s most senior officials, Nikolay Patrushev.  Speaking at a Vladivostok conference today, he denounced the use by officials of “foreign” resources like Google, Yahoo, WhatsApp, and others as a threat to national security (

            He said that this is “a systemic issue for all of Russia, but in the Far East, it is especially serious.”  Patrushev asked that the heads of the regions there “devote particular attention to these issues and take corresponding measures.” Continuing “negligence” in this area will not be tolerated.

            The Russian Security Council official’s remarks follow earlier reports that the Duma may adopt a law this fall that would “prohibit bureaucrats and state employees from using social networks at work.”  Observers say that this measure will be considered this fall, after the law on “cyber sovereignty” goes into effect on September 1.

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