Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Russians List Putin’s Greatest Successes and Greatest Failures

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 25 – A new Levada Center poll showing that more than half of Russians are tired of waiting for Vladimir Putin to bring them a better life but that nearly three-quarters of them still trust the Russian president has not surprisingly attracted a good deal of attention, commentary and speculation about the upcoming election. 

            But perhaps even more interesting than those global assessments are the listing and rankings Russians give to what they say are the Kremlin’s leader’s greatest successes and greatest failures, a set of figures that provides a more nuanced view of how Russians view Putin in the 17th year of his reign (levada.ru/2017/04/24/15835/).

            The rankings combine those who rated a particular action as a success and those who rated it as a failure.  Putin’s greatest successes, in descending order, were raising the country’s military capability, strengthening the international standing of Russia, resolving the Chechen problem, restoring order to the country, improving ties with CIS countries, promoting optimism and hope, improving international relations, fighting crime and protecting democracy and freedoms, with the last only one percent positive relative to the negatives.

            His greatest failures, again in descending order from the most to the least, are, Russians say, fighting corruption, improving the standard of living, bringing the oligarchs to heel, economic development, strengthening morality, improving ties with the West, creating conditions for private business, and eliminating the threat of terrorism in Russia.  Again the margins for the last four are small, less than five percent.

Putin isn’t the Only CIS Country Leader who Likes Sports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 25 – Vladimir Putin’s passion for martial arts and other forms of sports is well-known.  Less well-known is the fact that all but one of the ten other heads of the CIS member countries is also a more or less passionate sportsmen. Indeed, being one or being seen to be one now appears to be almost a requirement of such positions.

            The Fergana news agency has provided a listing of the ten presidents and their favorite sports (fergananews.com/articles/9380).

·         Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev likes arm wrestling.

·         Armenia’s Serzh Sargsyan likes chess.

·         Belarus’ Alyaksandr Lukashenka likes hockey and skiing.

·         Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev likes tennis, golf, horseback riding and skiing.

·         Kyrgyzstan’s Almazbek Atambayev says he likes hiking but the news agency notes that “so far no one has seen him with a backpack on.”

·         Moldova’s Igor Dodon likes chess.

·         Tajikistan’s Emomali Rakhmn likes soccer.

·         Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov likes horseback riding, biking, motorcycling and fishing.

·         Uzbekistan’s Shavkat Mirziyoyev has not shown any preferences at least in public but he is new to the job.

·         Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko likes judo but says he doesn’t like soccer.

Moscow Patriarchate Says Parishes in Ukraine Must Get Its Permission to Shift to Other Hierarchies

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 25 – Faced with a rising tide of parishes in Ukraine whose members have voted to transfer their allegiance to the Kyiv Patriarchate, the Moscow Patriarchate has issued rules specifying that parishes cannot change from one hierarchy to another without its explicit written permission.

            Individuals, of course, can continue to move from one church to another; but the Moscow Patriarchate, by insisting that the church buildings belong to it and not to the parishes, can block entire parishes from voting to leave collectively and take church buildings and other property with them.

            In the words of TSN reporter Sergey Galchenko, this action “completely destroys the Ukrainian structure of the church, transforming it into a reflection of the Russian Orthodox Church” in Russia and thus “in fact taking the churches away from their parishioners” (ru.tsn.ua/ukrayina/moskovskiy-patriarhat-pridumal-kak-po-hitromu-uberechsya-ot-perehodov-veruyuschih-v-drugie-konfessii-847237.html).

            This is a very big deal for both Moscow and Kyiv. For the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kremlin, the more than 12,000 parishes of the Moscow Patriarchal church in Ukraine not only form more than a third of the religious communities there, allowing enormous opportunities for Russian influence, but also represent almost half of all Moscow Patriarch churches in total and thus an important source of revenue for the patriarchate.

            For Kyiv, it represents an equally large challenge. Many Ukrainian political leaders have expressed the hope that moves to autocephaly for the republic’s church could be speeded by having congregations and even bishoprics change sides. Now, if the Ukrainian authorities want to move in that direction, they will have to take more positive actions.