Friday, December 18, 2015

A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 15

Paul Goble

Staunton, December 18 -- The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.

Consequently, Windows on Eurasia will present a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the fifteenth such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, this week once again, one could have put out such a listing every day, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1.      Putin is the Ivan the Terrible of Today – and That’s Good, a Russian Nationalist Says.  Russians compared the current Kremlin leader with past Russian ones gradually pushing back in time, from Stalin to Nicholas I and now to Ivan the Terrible.  According to the commentator who drew this last comparison, this is good thing Ivan and Putin are what Russia needs (

2.      By Their Walks, You Shall Know Them. A group of European specialists on Parkinson’s disease say that Vladimir Putin and many of those around him display a particular way of walking and moving their arms that marks them as having the precursors of some nervous disorders (

3.      Russian Cruise Missile Hits Apartment Block in Arkhangelsk.  Kremlin media have played up the deadly accuracy of Russian cruise missiles during the campaign in Syria, but residents of the northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk may have a different view. One Russian cruise missile went off course and crashed into an apartment block there. Fortunately, no collateral damage deaths have been reported (

4.      Russian Constitution at Risk of Being Put on Extremist List?  A communist commentator says that the Kremlin’s campaign against extremism is now so all-embracing that even the Russian constitution might land on an extremist list because of one or more of its provisions (  Meanwhile, ever more institutions are finding “fifth columns” within their precincts. The latest to do so is the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (

5.      League of Nations Expelled Moscow; Now Moscow Expels International Law.  In 1939, the League of Nations expelled the USSR for its aggression. Now, a Ukrainian commentator points out, the world has changed. The UN hasn’t expelled Russia; but Russia has expelled international law by passing legislation allowing the Russian government to ignore international laws it doesn’t like (

6.      Capital Flight from Russia Slowing Only Because There is So Little Left. So much capital has left Russia in recent years that there is little left to send abroad, and consequently, figures on capital flight are down ( Other consequences of Russia’s economic problems that may have been missed include stores which are making their aisles wider to conceal how many fewer goods they have (, shuttering libraries to pay for the war on terrorism (, and businesses choosing to use barter rather than money for transactions, something economists say could throw the country back to the 16th century (

7.      Refugees, Sanctions and War Russia’s Words of the Year, Experts Say. A group of experts on the Russian language have identified the 15 most important words of the year. The list is led by refugees, sanctions and war but all include hybrid, selfie, and start-up (

8.      Kadyrov’s Precise Location in Sufi Order Identified. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is a fifth generation naib of the Kunta Haji wird of the Tasawuf tariqat of the Kadirya Sufi order of Islam, according to genealogical records (

9.      Russians Treated Worse in Belarus than in Central Asia.  Russians often think that members of their nation are treated worse in the Muslim countries of Central Asia than they are in culturally similar Belarus, but in fact, one Russian who has lived in both says, they get it exactly backwards. It is far harder to be a Russian in Belarus than in Uzbekistan (

10.  Did No Russian Die in Recent Years?  The only way that the latest Russian government figures about increases in life expectancy can be true is if one assumes that not one of them died in recent years, an obvious absurdity but not one that is often pointed out (

11.  Only about Half of Russia’s Literary Languages have Their Own Literatures.  Russian propagandists proudly declare that more than 100 of the nation living within the borders of the Russian Federation have “literary languages,” but experts say that only about half of them actually have literature in them ( In a related story, the new Miss Sakha announced in advance of an all-Russia beauty competition that she doesn’t speak Russian well (

12.  Barbed Wire Goes Up Around Ostankino. In an indication that the Kremlin may be less confident about its claims that 90 percent of the Russian population supports Putin, officials have put up barbed wire around the television center in Moscow ( and put in orders for more crowd-control weaponry (

13.  Russian Anti-Americanism Much More Extreme than Its Soviet Predecessor.  There is one way that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has caught up and surpassed an evil feature of the Soviet past: the anti-Americanism it encourages is not limited by any concerns for class solidarity but is truly xenophobic, Moscow commentators say (

            And three more from countries around Russia:

1.      The Aral Sea has Disappeared and Reappeared Four Times Over 24,000 Years.  Scholars say that the Aral Sea, which has largely disappeared as a result of overconsumption of waterways feeding it, has died and been reborn four times since the body of water came into existence 24,000 years ago (

2.       Demarcation of Belarusian-Ukrainian Border will Take Eight or Nine Years.  The border between Belarus and Ukraine still needs to be demarcated. Officials estimate that will take another eight or nine years (

3.      To Defend Leader, Turkmenistan Bans Any Name Changes for Horses. In a move that observers say is designed to prevent any slights to the current Turkmenistan leader, Ashgabat legislators have banned the changing of the names of horses in that Central Asian country (

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